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Stopping the Philippine Drug War Killings

One of today's urgent human rights issues is extrajudicial killings in the Philippines drug war. Since taking office in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has orchestrated a brutal campaign whose victims may exceed 16,000 as we approach the end of 2017. Other abuses have affected hundreds of thousands, and the killings are spreading to Indonesia.

 
from Amnesty International video,
"If You Are Poor You Are Killed"

StoptheDrugWar.org plays a prominent role in international advocacy on this issue. In March 2017 Vice President Leni Robredo of the Philippines sent us a speech by video for an event we held at the UN's Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna. In November 2017 we released a sign-on statement, coinciding with the ASEAN Summit in Manila, calling for action by the UN and major aid donor countries.

Currently we are working with Filipino American advocates and others to pass legislation in the US Congress placing human rights conditions on aid to the Philippines, while funding positive alternatives to the drug war there, and to encourage such moves by other donor countries. And we are engaged in other work on the issue, including support for the campaign to free Philippine Senator Leila de Lima.

These efforts, which continue into 2018, are part of a global drug policy reform effort that StoptheDrugWar.org engaged in decisively in fall 2014. Much of that involves the United Nations, and our 501(c)(3) US nonprofit organization, DRCNet Foundation Inc., is an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status with the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Our international drug policy efforts are led for our organization by our founder and 24-year executive director, David Borden, who tweets as @stopthedrugwar, and who starting in 2018 will also tweet as @BordenUNEventPH. Our organization's blog will have a significant focus on the Philippines, also beginning in 2018.

 
 
TIME magazine did the first posting
of the vice president's video,
embedding it from our YouTube account.

Vice President Robredo's video and the UN Event

Our UN event drew massive attention in the Philippines. We released the video the Monday before, offering TIME magazine the exclusive first posting. TIME followed up with an interview with Robredo. Philippine media took extensive notice; it trended on Twitter and was covered by wire services and outlets throughout Asia and the Gulf region.

Unfortunately though not surprisingly, Duterte's forces hit back. The Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives and the president's Spokesperson both claimed the vice president's office (OVP) must have timed the video's release to coincide with other events that week. They principally pointed to an impeachment complaint that a congressman filed against Duterte the day after we released the video. A resolution in the European Parliament calling for the release of Duterte critic Sen. Leila de Lima, passed the morning before our event, was also in the mix. They presented this as evidence Robredo was engaged in a "destabilization campaign" against the government.

 
Robredo's opponents used the
video to attack her politically.

While still in Vienna, we released a statement to media refuting those claims. It documented that UN staff had scheduled side events nearly two months earlier, and attested that OVP had made no requests of us. (Our event appears on page ten of the 2017 CND side events list; a screenshot of that document's properties page shows it was published on January 23, compared with the event's March 16 date.) Sen. Kiko Pangilinan distributed the statement to their media list, and we also contacted Philippine media. (See news links below.)

 

 
 
coverage of our statement
defending the vice president, CNN
Philippines mobile home page

The statement helped to dilute the specific charge of a coordinated campaign by the vice president. But Duterte's team had ignited a political firestorm over the video which already had its own momentum, and which turned into a campaign to impeach Robredo. At the height of the furor, opportunistic celebrities even held a concert and rally against Robredo. (Their campaign reached the US west coast, when a Filipino American group in Hayward, California held an affinity rally.)

As we approach the end of 2017, Philippine Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has not announced whether he will move on impeachment, but for now at least the storm has abated. Robredo's popularity has rebounded – while Duterte's has diminished, somewhat – and she has continued to speak out against the killings.

The political heat the vice president took for participating in our event is unfortunate, but it's just one in a set of assaults that have been waged on Robredo since she took office, and on others. Targets of the Duterte camp's attack on Philippine democracy include Senators, the Supreme Court's Chief Justice (they are holding the impeachment hearings right now), the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights and others. Along with Duterte, a mover and shaker of the manipulations is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the former dictator who lost a close race to Robredo for vice president and is challenging the vote count. One of the tactics the Duterte camp has used is a sophisticated social media manipulation campaign involving paid trolls and bots.

We are continuing our advocacy on the Philippines, and we hope to use the media profile we've gained in that country, and the numerous contacts we've made in the Philippines and internationally, to up the pressure on the Duterte administration and building the international movement for stopping the killings and for accountability. Information on some of our current work on this appears below.

 
Philippine officials provided the
government's response.
(photo by Joey Tranchina)

First, footage of our event is available online here. Along with the Robredo statement and an Amnesty international video, it includes presentations by Chito Gascon, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines; Abhisit Vejjajiva, former Prime Minister of Thailand and current chair of event cosponsor the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (video); Lousewies van der Laan, former leader of the Dutch D66 party (Skype); Alison Smith, lead counsel and head of international criminal justice programs at the NGO No Peace Without Justice; Marco Perduca, former Senator from Italy and a member of our board of directors; and a written statement from US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). We also have transcripts and a detailed summary.

 
 

Co-moderator Marco Perduca, former
senator of Italy, and David Borden
speaking with Amnesty International's
Daniel Joloy, other speakers Alison
Smith (just off screen) and Lousewies
van der Laan (on Skype).
(photo by Joey Tranchina)

News articles mentioning the event are too numerous to list here, but these are some key ones:

The Philippines' largest broadsheet newspaper and 8th most read web site in the country, The Inquirer, interviewed our executive director David Borden, as well as fellow event speaker Alison Smith, two weeks after the event. The interview, titled "Group says Duterte, not Robredo, upsetting int'l community," was widely read, shared by Inquirer readers nearly 9,000 times.

A transcript of the video is posted on Vice President Robredo's web site.

Articles covering our statement defending the vice president against the Speaker's false attack:

Articles covering our publishing of the full event footage:

Global Sign-On Statement

 
 
 

In the lead up to the November 2017 Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was hosted by Duterte in the Philippines, we organized a global sign-on statement which calls for a UN-led investigation of the drug war killings; for the leaders of ASEAN member states and other world leaders attending to speak up about the issue; and for international aid donor governments to impose human rights conditions on law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, while funding positive programs that could serve as an alternative to the Philippine drug war, and funding the work of human rights advocates.

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals endorsed the statement. Of the 240 NGO endorsers, more than 50 are based in Asia, including a majority of ASEAN member states as well as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. There are also several Asia-wide networks devoted to issues such as HIV, transgender and drug user concerns, and youth democracy activism.

Some notable signatories on the document include the National Organization for Women (NOW), Doctors of the World, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG, a nationwide Philippines human rights lawyers group founded during the Marcos dictatorship years), Treatment Communities of America, prominent human rights advocate and actor of MASH fame Mike Farrell, former police chief of Seattle Norm Stamper, and others.

A political component of the statement's outreach efforts, which was in its early stages at the time of the statement's release, secured endorsements from legislators in Canada, Italy, Cambodia, and Washington State, as well as other political and governmental officials from Singapore, Canada and the UK.

The statement was covered in articles on four important Philippines news outlets, including the Inquirer, Rappler, the Philippine Star and InterAksyon. The Interaksyon article credited our coalition with renewing global calls for a UN-led probe into the drug war killings.

We continue to accept signatories for the statement, and are currently formulating the next stage of the effort, which may include a similar statement with slight modifications to update it and enable certain additional major organizations to endorse the language. A key objective of the next stage is to get major aid donor countries including the United States to adopt the policies on aid that are called for in the statement.

Legislative Lobbying

A bipartisan bill in the US Senate, "The Philippine Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017," would enact human rights conditions on some law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, based on certifications by the US State Dept., while funding public health programs to address substance issues as well as human rights work. There is similar language in the current version of the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

 
 

We are working with a coalition that includes Filipino American organizations and faith networks, to pass this legislation as part of the upcoming appropriations process, or if not then later during the 2018 session of Congress. A recent update and action alert we published is online here, and includes information on what the most key states and congressional districts are. We have a write-to-Congress form supporting S. 1055 online here.

We view this legislation as important not only for its potential impact on the Duterte administration's political cost-benefit analysis on this issue, but also because of the inconsistent approach to the matter taken by the current US administration. While the State Dept. has reportedly raised some concerns about the drug war killings, President Trump has made comments which seem to green-light them.

Specifically, in December 2016 Trump and Duterte spoke on the phone, after which Duterte claimed that Trump praised his drug policies. While Duterte could have made that up, the Trump team never rebutted the claim.

After Trump and Duterte spoke again in April 2017, a statement on the White House web site said they discussed " fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs," with no qualification of that statement to exclude extrajudicial killings from Trump's apparent praise. A transcript of the April conversation leaked to Rappler quotes Trump congratulating Duterte for doing an "'unbelievable job' in the war on drugs."

Finally, Trump was silent about the issue during his appearance at the ASEAN Summit, at least publicly. A White House spokesperson said that Trump and Duterte talked briefly about human rights, but did not elaborate.

– END –

Video: "Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War," side event, UN in Vienna, March 16 2017

Playlist version:

 
Individual video links:
 
  • Background
  • US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (written statement)
  • If You Are Poor, You Are Killed (Amnesty International video)
  • Message of Philippines Vice President Leni Robredo
  • Intro by David Borden, StoptheDrugWar.org executive director
  • Lousewies van der Laan, former leader, Dutch D66 party
  • Alison Smith, No Peace Without Justice
  • Chito Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
  • Marco Perduca, former Senator of Italy
  • Philippine government response by Sulpicio Confiado, Deputy Director of Mission
  • Questions and Answers
  • Philippine government response by Earl Saavedra, Assistant Secretary of President's Dangerous Drug Board
Single video of full event:
 

Transcript, "Human Rights Challenge, Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War," March 16 2017, UN in Vienna

Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Executions in the Drug War side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, March 16, 2017

TRANSCRIPT

Written statement from US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):

What's been happening in the Philippines is horrifying. Instead of escalating this violence through chilling episodes like those on display in the Philippines, we need a just and compassionate approach to drug policy that focuses on public health and harm reduction.

The international community must prioritize these changes. Our goal should ge to put an end to mindless military action and hard-edged policies that have been proven to fail, and replace them with more effective regulation and treatment.

David Borden: Let's start.

Amnesty International video, "If you are poor you are killed: Extrajudicial executions in the Philippines 'war on drugs'"

My campaign against drugs will not stop until the last pusher, and the last drug lord are... [video of Pres. Duterte making throat cutting sound and gesture]

Video continues in Filipino language with English subtitles:

"They said, 'This is a raid, no one moves.' Then there were six gunshots."

Analyn's house was raided in August 2016. Police say it was an anti-drugs operation. Her husband and four friends were killed. She says he was unarmed and never involved in drugs. He's one of many.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte [d]eclared his "war on drugs" 6,200 people have been killed. We've documented 33 cases. Most appear to be extrajudicial executions.

Our report reveals allegations of payment to police for encounters with alleged drug offenders and claims of links between assassins and the police.

Almost all of those targeted are poor.

"Why is it that the rich are jailed and used as witnesses? But the poor, why do they kill the poor?"

Our investigation also includes claims that police ran a racket with funeral homes to cheat families and that some officers steal when working crime scenes.

Despite complaints, there've been no proper investigations[, a]nd many victims' families are too scared to protest. No police officer has been charged, let alone convicted[,] and President Duterte has promised to protect them.

"His first slogan was good. I was in favour of it: 'Change'" Everyone wants change[,] but no Filipino wants dead bodies all over the streets and for the police killing people to become the norm."

Vice President Robredo's video:

David Borden, Executive Director of the DRCNet Foundation; Marco Perduca, former member of the Italian Senate; Chito Gascon, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights; Alison Smith, Legal Counsel and Director of International Criminal Justice Programs, No Peace Without Justice; all the other sponsors of this event, ladies and gentlemen, a good day to all of you.

We are heartened that the issue of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines today is being discussed in an event such as this. To know that the international community's eyes are on us, and to feel that human rights advocates are watching over our country gives us comfort, courage, and hope.

It is already February 2017, and the body count to the drug-related killings keeps growing. We are now looking at some very grim statistics. Since July last year, more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions.

We agree that our people deserve nothing less than a safe environment, so that anyone can walk the streets safely whether in daylight or at nighttime. But drug abuse should not be treated as one that can be solved with bullets alone. It must be regarded as it truly is: a complex public health issue, linked intimately with poverty and social inequality.

As it is, in some areas in Manila where poverty is rampant, residents tell us that communities are rounded up in places like basketball courts, women separated from men, those with tattoos asked to stand in a corner, their belongings searched. People are told that they didn't have any right to demand for search warrants, because they were squatters, and did not own the properties on which their houses were built. They told us of the Palit Ulo scheme, which literally means exchange heads, where the wife or husband or relative of a person in a so-called drug list will be taken if the person himself could not be found.

Some of those have told us when there's crime, they normally go to the police. Now they don't know where to turn to. Our people feel both hopeless and helpless, a state of mind that we must all take seriously. This is why the Office of the Vice President supports the rehabilitation of drug dependence. You cannot kill addicts and declare the problem solved. The solution is to design the proper health, education and psychosocial interventions to prevent further drug use, and help them transition into productive members of society. Another challenge is to drum up legal and psychological support for those who may have undergone trauma due to extrajudicial killings.

We believe that when the public knows its rights under the Philippine Constitution, when the community is united in this knowledge, our people will be better protected. We must tread carefully on this, however, because in some cases reported to us, those who ask for a search warrant, for instance, have been beaten and physically abused for doing so.

We must all demand greater transparency in the government's war on drugs, because this is a major, publicly-funded campaign. Our leaders must be honest about the basis of the drug war. What exactly is the scope of the drug problem? Why do numbers about the extent of the problem change, as officially reported to the nation by our president, inconsistent?

We believe that any campaign against illegal drugs must be founded on integrity. The public must ask why no one is being held accountable. The public must be watchful. Around 500 complaints have been filed at the Commission of Human Rights, and recommended to the Department of Justice for filing of cases. But until now, seven months into the administration's drug war, no information has been filed.

On top of this, there is a brewing problem. Death penalty might soon return, and the age of criminal liability might be dropped down to nine. We believe this to be a huge mistake, because death penalty for nonviolent offenses violate UN treaties and international human rights norms.

Last Friday, a day before the EDSA People Power Revolution's 31st anniversary, we called the president to task on this. On behalf of the Filipino people, whose daily struggles are escalating, we asked him to focus on the war that truly matters, the war against poverty, instead of just the war against drugs.

In a public statement, we asked him to direct the nation towards respect for rule of law, instead of a blatant disregard for it. We asked him to uphold basic human rights enshrined in our Constitution, instead of encouraging its abuse. We asked him to be the leader he promised to be, and evoke in our people hope and inspiration instead of fear. We told him, do not allow the lies to distort the truth. We also asked the Filipino people to defy brazen incursions of their rights.

Our people have fought long for our rights and freedoms. The Filipino nation has come far since our country's darkest days. We are not about to back down now.

Thank you all for listening, may you have a fruitful discussion moving forward. The Office of the Vice President is looking forward to deepening this conversation further with you.

David Borden:

So, thank you all for joining us today. I'm not sure if it was clear or not, the video we opened with was published recently by Amnesty International. I appreciate their providing that for us today. I'd like to thank all of our cosponsors, especially the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), which made so much possible.

Today, we will hear from Lousewies van der Laan, former leader of the Dutch D66 Liberal Party. We'll hear from Alison Smith, Lead Counsel and Director of International criminal justice programs with No Peace Without Justice; and Chito Gascon, the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Republic of the Philippines. I'm pleased that we've also been joined by some members of the Philippines Mission, and we'll hear from them later as well. And my co-moderator, long-time friend, Marco Perduca, former senator from Italy.

So, one lens through which I think we can view the Duterte administration is as a manifestation of the global rise in populist and authoritarian or authoritarian-leaning leaders. We've seen these currents of tension between different kinds of people. We've seen in some places, in my opinion in my own country, demonization and demagoguery. We've had debate on legitimate economic questions. All of these have challenged the standing global order of institutions and responsibilities and rights.

In this context, it is essential that the Duterte administration's approach to drug policy not become a model for other leaders. And so we applaud Vice President Robredo for speaking out, and the work of human rights leaders like Chair Gascon, and others doing so much, what they can in the Philippines, and the risks they are taking.

Now our first speaker has joined us remotely. She'll only be with us for the first part of this session due to a conflict, but this is Lousewies van der Laan. Lousewies?

Lousewies van der Laan: Thanks very much. Good afternoon, everyone. Can you hear me from this Skype connection?

Marco Perduca: Yes.

van der Laan:

Oh good, okay. I'm really sorry that I was not able to attend in person. But I'm a member of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and we're having our community forum in Copenhagen. That means also that I will have to drop after my contribution. But one of the things we do is to keep the internet going, which is why I'm able to join you online, and why we can make these wonderful connections.

I really want to say congratulations to all the sponsoring organizations for putting this very important topic on the agenda. The impression that many of us around the world are getting is that the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines is descending into extrajudicial killings that will cost innocent lives, and will do very little, in fact, to stop the drugs trade. And it's very, very important that this was able to be put on the agenda in this way.

I used to be spokeswoman on justice in the Dutch and the European parliament, and I agree wholeheartedly with Vice President Robredo that drugs abuse is a very complex social and health issue that cannot be solved with police brutality. Police have a role, but only within the limits of the law.

Now, I feel very connected to the issue in general, but for the Philippines in particular, because I had a very inspiring visit to the Philippines in March of 2011. It was my only visit, and at the time I was serving as the Chief of Staff of the President of the International Criminal Court. And my president, President Song, was meeting with the then-president Benigno Aquino to try to persuade him to ratify the Treaty of Rome.

In order to prepare for the meeting, we met with civil society, which is extremely strong and vibrant in the Philippines. We met with academia, with human rights organizations. And they had been fighting tirelessly to keep the Philippines a very strong democracy, guided by the rule of law and the protection of human rights. And they were actually so effective that, by the time we got to the meeting with the President, he immediately confirmed that he had already sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

And what I found very interesting was his motivation for the Philippines ratifying the country. He explained that there are so many Filipinos who are working and living abroad, in other countries outside of the Philippines, that it is in the national interest to create a world which is guided by the rule of law. And that by ratifying the treaty, the Philippines was actually setting a standard also for the rest of the world to protect their nationals, no matter where they might be.

I found that extremely inspiring – that, as well as the very active civil society. The many very motivated politicians we met – most of them actually were women, which I also found extremely inspiring. And I very much look forward to working together with everyone to try to support those in the Philippines that want to ensure that everyone is equal before the law, and that human rights apply to all.

So I wish you all a very productive visit. I will try to stay online as long as I can to listen. But for the rest, I'm sure I will be debriefed afterwards. And I wish everyone good luck for the session. Thank you.

Borden: Now, since Ms. van der Laan will have to leave soon, are there any very brief questions for her before we move on to our next item?

Okay. So, next, we have a video from the CALD chairman, Thailand former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit Vejjajiva's video:

Sawasdee Krab. Greetings from Bangkok. On behalf of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, an organization which is a network of political parties of liberal and democratic leaning in the region, who is cosponsoring this event, it is a great pleasure for me to address this session.

I recognize that the topic being discussed, the war on drugs – we have two representatives from the Philippines who will also be addressing this meeting. I hope that the Philippine Chair of the Human Rights Commission, Chito Gascon, will be able to give you a very good overall picture. As well as the statement made by the vice president of the Philippines, Vice President Robredo – who will also continue in her opposition, vocal opposition, to the war on drugs – will be able to tell you about the challenges that the country is going through.

The fact of the matter is this war on drugs in the Philippines has already claimed 7,000 lives, many of whom could be innocent people unrelated to the drugs trade. It is a clear violation of human rights, a challenge for liberal and democratic institutions – not just in the country, but also will have profound impact in the region.

I say this because we already see some leaders, notably in Cambodia, who are now contemplating carrying a similar exercise. And just over 10 years ago, in my own country, in Thailand, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, also engaged in a war on drugs, which claimed the lives of 2,000-3,000 Thais.

What we need to understand is the need to get to grips with the reality of the political impact of the war on drugs, so that we can come up with the appropriate and adequate response, and recognize what our agenda must be.

The hard fact of the matter is, in cases where the war on drugs is being carried out, it is a very popular campaign. That's why these leaders, populist leaders, decide to carry out such a policy. And to be able to get to grips with the issue, we need to recognize that its popularity stems from the frustration of people who feel that the drugs problem simply is not being addressed in an adequate manner.

So for us, the hard truth is, what is popular is not always right, and what is right often carries political cost. What we have to decide is, what to do under such circumstances. I think, for all of us, we feel that we have to stand up for the right principles. Whatever the political cost, we still have to fight against any violation of human rights. And we have to recognize that the war on drugs, apart from often claiming innocent lives, also leads to other sorts of problems – corruption, political persecution – which very much go to undermine the democratic system itself.

So our response, first of all, as part of the international community, is to keep up pressure, and to say that this is not right, that this has to be stopped. But at the same time, our campaign, our message, can only get traction, if it is eventually accepted by the people in the countries where the war on drugs is being carried out. And here, we have to do two things.

First, point out that the war on drugs itself never achieves its objective. In Thailand, it certainly didn't solve our drugs problem. That problem remains with us. And one of the most powerful opinion pieces that I've read recently was from a former president of Columbia. He has clearly spelled out that during his war on drugs, a new set of problems were created, whether it's driving a lot of the drugs trade underground, making drugs more expensive, preventing drug users from rehabilitation, greater corruption in the police force and state officials – all of which eventually meant that the war on drugs itself never achieves the purpose it is set out to achieve.

And more importantly, it's not enough for us to criticize or fight against the war on drugs. We, who believe in human rights, in liberal democracy, must also put forward a credible alternative as to how we would be able to end the drugs problem. Unless we do that, we will not have the credibility, or the hearts and minds of the people whose support we need to eventually stop the drugs war.

So I hope your session on this particular topic will be able to address these issues, and allow us to continue the fight against such violations of human rights on a grand scale. Thank you very much for your attention, and we will, in Asia, as liberals and democrats, continue to support the good work you do in our fight against the war on drugs, and also in solving the drugs problem for the people of the world. Thank you.

Perduca: Thank you for your attention. We promise this is the last video, so we go back to real human beings in the room. And it's a pleasure for me to introduce Alison Smith, who for many have been coordinating the activities on international criminal law for No Peace Without Justice, an organization that I had the pleasure to coordinate within the UN system 20 years ago, and she will speak about the implication of international criminal law, and what we have been hearing since 1:00pm today. You have the floor.

Smith:

Thank you very much, Marco. And thank you to the organizers of this event, David in particular, and thank you to all of you for being here. As Marco mentioned, what I wanted to talk about was an international criminal law framework of what's been happening in the Philippines. At No Peace Without Justice, we've been researching this for the past several months, looking at what's been happening on the basis of open source information, so media reports and things like that.

And the reason we wanted to look at this within an international legal framework is because if certain crimes are committed, this triggers certain obligations on the part of the state. Now as was mentioned, the Philippines has ratified the Rome Statute from the International Criminal Court. And so the Rome Statute's substantive law, substantive international criminal law, is the framework that we've been using to look at what's been happening. Because that's the applicable law in the Philippines at the relevant times.

So the Rome Statute covers war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. In terms of war crimes, there's no armed conflict, so there are no war crimes. There's been – we can't see any specific intent to destroy a protected group, in whole or in part, so there's no genocide. So we've been focusing on crimes against humanity.

The definition of crimes against humanity is any one of a number of prohibited acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population as part of a state or organizational policy to carry out that attack. So I'm going to go through these in a little bit more detail, also so we can fit in what we've been hearing, and what we will hear from Chair Gascon, about the facts on the ground within this legal framework.

Starting with the prohibited acts, the first act that's prohibited in crimes against humanity is the act of murder. And what this means is basically a killing that is not justified by law. And from what we've seen from the videos, and what we've seen happening in the Philippines, there are many, many killings that are taking place that do not appear to be justified by law. So we have the prohibited acts taking place in the Philippines.

In terms of the context, as I mentioned, the context is that the act takes place as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population as pursuant to a state or organizational policy to commit the attack. And I'm just going to focus on two of those elements, but I'm happy to answer questions on the other elements as well, if anybody wishes to ask.

The first element I wanted to highlight is the question of the attack. When international criminal law is talking about an attack as part of crimes against humanity, it doesn't mean a military attack, necessarily. What it's referring to is the – forgive the technical language here – the commission of multiple acts that are prohibited within the context of crimes against humanity. So we can see there is an attack in the Philippines that's constituted by this very large number of extrajudicial killings that has been taking place since May 2016.

The second element I wanted to focus on was the question of a state or organizational policy or plan. One thing I would say, this is not part of customary international law, but it is part of the Rome Statute system, so it is an element that would need to be satisfied in the case of the Philippines. And the purpose of this is to distinguish random attacks from the widespread or systematic attacks required for crimes against humanity.

The thing that I wanted to mention about this is that there's no need under international law for there to be a formal plan, a written plan, or a written policy. And that a policy or plan can be inferred from the circumstances – so by the systematic nature of what's happening, or by promises that perpetrators will be protected and will be shielded from the law – and all of these things can point to the existence of a plan or policy. And our conclusions based on the research that we've done, is that there is a state policy either to carry out the attack, or at least to look the other way and to allow these attacks to take place.

So based on our research, our conclusions are that there have been crimes against humanity being committed in the Philippines since May 2016, and this triggers certain obligations. And the obligation that it triggers is on the Philippine authorities to investigate and, where appropriate, to prosecute people who are perpetrating these crimes against humanity. As David mentioned, we recognize the presence of the Philippines here, and we look forward to your thoughts and your input on that.

So, our recommendations, of course, are first that these killings should stop, and second that the Philippines should investigate and prosecute the crimes that have been committed, and so to contribute to accountability, and contribute to a Philippines based on human rights and the rule of law. Thank you.

Perduca: Thank you Alison. Now, Chito Gascon, the Chair of the National Commission on Human Rights.

Chito Gascon:

Thank you, Marco. And at the onset, I want to thank DRCNet Foundation and the other sponsors of this meeting for organizing this. I'm also grateful to all of you for coming. We appreciate your interest in what's happening in our country. I'm very conscious about time, so I will be direct to the point.

The president of the country himself declared this as a war on drugs, and as a result of this war, the number of deaths related to this prosecution of drugs and drug traffickers and drug addicts is an unprecedented number of killings in terms of pace and scale. Over eight months now, close to 8,000 have been killed. A third of that have been killed by the admission of the police themselves, in what they ostensibly refer to as lawful police operations. The local term they use is "nanlaban," or "they fought back," and so they got killed. So the self-defense argument is raised. And two thirds of those who have been killed, and the term used by the government itself is DUI – not driving under influence, but deaths under investigation. Ostensibly committed by unknown assailants, possibly internecine drug gang wars, or possibly death squads or some other assailants.

So that's the number. And I say unprecedented in terms of pace and scale because we have not seen this, not even during the authoritarian period. In fact, we have long passed the number of those killed in this war on drugs compared to those that had been killed in the first year of the authoritarian period. Our friend from Thailand, the prime minister said that their government ten years ago prosecuted the same war on drugs, and close to 3,000 had been killed over an 18-month period. This is 8,000 over eight months. So that is the challenge we have.

Now we welcome the statements made by the Philippine government in the conference here, that they will affirm human rights, that they will have an inclusive and comprehensive approach. But the first step is to declare a halt on the killings.

The next is, as Alison highlighted, the importance of investigating thoroughly, and prosecuting those that have been part of these killings. Unfortunately, unless our friends from the Philippines here, from the government, can clarify, to our knowledge in the Commission on Human Rights, eight months since the start of this war on drugs, not a single police officer has been charged in court. The law on the police established an internal affairs service that is duty-bound by the law to immediately investigate any instance of a discharge of a firearm, and a death resulting from lawful police operations. And yes, the internal affairs service has conducted what they referred to as administrative investigations, but that is essentially dribbling the ball, because eight months after, not a single police officer has been charged in court. Why? Because they essentially take the nanlaban, or self-defense argument as basis for washing their hands.

That is not the case, because a commissioner in the Commission on Human Rights, a colleague of mine, was former undersecretary of the Department of Justice. And she told me the previous policy in the Department of Justice was when there is an admission by a police officer that they had in fact killed someone in the course of a police operation, that person must be brought to court, because the self-defense defense is a matter for the courts to determine in specific cases. But the reality is not a single police officer that has already admitted is being held accountable.

And we are also calling for investigation of the two thirds, because there is no progress there as well. As has been mentioned by two previous speakers, we are a party to the International Criminal Court. I am still a believer in our justice system, but this justice system must be allowed to work. First instance: law enforcement must do a serious investigation. Second instance: they must cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights.

We are currently conducting, of the seven thousand plus killed, about five hundred of our own investigations. And at every stage of our own investigations, we have received non-cooperation from the police. We ask for documents, they ignore the giving of these documents.

And so if the Philippine government is serious about protecting human rights, if the Philippine government is serious at ensuring that it will not fall under the category of one state that is unwilling and unable to prosecute these cases, thereby triggering the possibility of going to the International Criminal Court, we ask them to stop the killings. We ask them to fully investigate. We've reviewed the prosecution and convictions. And ultimately – and there's opportunity in this forum here – they really need to move away from a primarily strongman, law and order approach to this problem, to a more comprehensive harm reduction approach. And we hope that this dialogue in this session as well as elsewhere will help contribute to that purpose.

Thank you very much, good afternoon.

Perduca:

Thank you, Chito. Before I give back the floor to Dave, I want to say that another victim of the war on drugs, also in the Philippines unfortunately, is freedom of speech. We have seen some of the most articulate critics of the President and the policies, being incarcerated with virtually no reason, on false and politically fabricated allegations, in particular Senator De Lima.

Now I'm not saying this because as a former senator I take more into consideration the thoughts of a politician. But still, that is possibly the most egregious case of someone being incarcerated without evidence. I understand there may still be a hearing, and we're looking forward to that. But at the same time we're mobilizing parliaments all over Europe. And we know that also the European Parliament may adopt a resolution soon on this worrying situation.

Dave, the floor is back to you, or we can open it for questions.

David Borden: Okay. Well before we open generally to questions, we will hear from Mr. Sulpicio Confiado – I hope I pronounced that correctly – the Deputy Chief of Mission and Consul General, and Deputy Permanent Representative from the Republic of the Philippines.

Sulpicio Confiado:

Thank you very much, Mr. Borden, Mr. Perduca, distinguished members of the panel, ladies and gentlemen, friends. Thank you very much for giving us the floor to be able to convey a statement by the Philippine government. Let me read through this, very brief and short.

Early on in his campaign, then-candidate Rodrigo Duterte stated that he will deal decisively with the substantial drug menace plaguing our country from north to south and east to west. As a result of that democratic exercise of suffrage, the president was elected by an overwhelming majority of the people.

We were quite disappointed that the firm resolve of the president in addressing the scourge of drugs has been met with skepticism if not outright condemnation. The focus has been solely on alleged human rights violations and so-called extrajudicial killings. The shocking number of seven thousand killed has been bandied about as reflecting the number of EJKs. There is clearly a need for clarification and investigation of these numbers, and based on the data from the Philippine drug enforcement agencies.

These ___ statistics, while in part coming from data on casualties from legitimate police operations against drug criminals, arise from killings carried out by vigilante elements or purges by syndicates themselves. These killings are being investigated as murders. It should be noted that a good percentage of the killings recorded in the last six months are non-drug related.

The government has an interagency mechanism that has been operational since 2012, headed by the Department of Justice and comprising of other eight different agencies. The interagency mechanism addresses cases of EJKs, which involves targeted killings of persons because of their advocacies to include political, environmental, media practitioners, human rights, et cetera. The government has recognized that a small proportion are suspicious cases, and these are being seriously and thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. We iterate that the Philippine government has never made extrajudicial killings a state policy, and the president himself has taken action targeting police and law enforcement personnel.

The principal campaign against illegal drugs should be viewed in the context of the president's duty under the constitution. This he has been doing, and doing this with fervor and commitment. Notwithstanding criticism from within and without, the majority of Filipinos continue to support the campaign against illegal drugs.

We welcome advice, but decisions will be made on sovereign grounds. Article Two, Section Four of the Philippine Constitution stipulates that the prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people. Section Five likewise provides that the maintenance of peace and order, protection of life, liberty and property, and promotion of general welfare, enjoyment by all people the blessings of democracy.

Unfairly, the Philippine response to the drug menace has been almost exclusively portrayed within the rubric of enforcement. The truth, however, is that the Philippine government has pursued a balanced and holistic approach to the drug issue in all its facets: prevention, education, enforcement, rehabilitation and reintegration. The five pillars of supply reduction, demand reduction, alternative development, civic awareness and regional international cooperation, inform the Philippines nation against illicit drugs.

We wish to emphasize that the illegal drugs campaign is but a subset of the overall socioeconomic agenda of the administration. The Philippines has employed a whole of government approach, uplifting the dignity of Filipinos, to alleviate poverty and pave the way for safe and secure societies.

Various Philippine governments are working towards this end, and aside from the war on illegal drugs, the government is leading effective implementation of agrarian reform through distribution of lands, improvement of communal irrigation systems, __ far and provision of ___ assistance to farmers and fishermen.

The success of the approach could be gleaned through the substantial 31.7% decrease in crimes from January to December 2016, compared with the same figure the year before. More rehab centers have been and are being built with enthusiastic support of the community, the business sector, and international partners. Various community-based measures, as well as initiatives for our young people including the peer-based strategy against drugs, have been met with considerable success. Regionally, the Philippines as chair and member of ASEAN, has embarked on collaborative efforts with like-minded countries to secure our communities against illegal drugs.

Perhaps the voluntary surrender of 700,000 people is telling. It tells of the magnitude of the problem. It's affected 45 thousand barangays, and affected another three million people. It could be viewed as indication that says that the drugs campaign has voluntary submission means that these victims desire to rid themselves of this habit in the use or __ of drugs.

Ours is a very young population with over 30% below the age of 14. We want safe communities where they can mature to be responsible citizens and to be able to achieve their full potential. A drug-infested community robs our youth of these basic human rights: the right to life, the right to happiness, and the right of a bright tomorrow.

We call on our friends in the international community to appreciate the substantial threat that our country faces. We call on the international community to do their share in raising their voices against legalization of illicit drugs. We call on the international community to see through the various agendas that promotes commercial and mercantilistic interests under the guise of compassion and human rights, while ignoring the solemn duty of a state to protect its __ systems and to nurture its people.

Let me end by quoting from the president's State of the Nation address last July: "My administration shall be sensitive to the state's obligations to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of our citizens, especially the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable. And social justice shall be pursued, even as the rule of law shall at all times prevail. The administration shall implement a humane approach to development and governance, as we improve our people's welfare in the areas of health, education, adequate food and housing, environmental preservation and respect for culture. Human rights must work to uplift human dignity, but human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country."

Thank you very much, Mr. ___.

Perduca: Thank you very much.

Borden: So given the limited time available, I request that comments and questions be kept as concise as possible.

Marco Perduca: Yes.

Daniel Joloy: Thank you very much for that very interesting presentation. My name is Daniel Joloy, from Amnesty International. We are also very deeply concerned about the increasing risks human rights defenders including staff from the Commission on Human Rights are facing in the Philippines, particularly in the context of documenting extrajudicial executions and that – as has been said, might amount to crimes against humanity – and for bringing these cases before justice. So I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the specific challenges that human rights defenders are facing, particularly after the direct threats of President Duterte against human rights defenders. And can you tell us a little bit more about what mechanisms does the Commission have to protect human rights defenders?

Chito Gascon: Should we take a few, and then respond?

Marco Perduca: Yes, if there's any?

Unidentified Speaker: Yeah, I wanted, I know we're here about the Philippines, so I was wondering about what internal institutional resistance is there available for those that are against this policy. It's very interesting to see the Office of the Vice President come out so strongly. What kind of powers does she have, or others in Congress, or other branches of power? What kind of work is being done to resist this?

Marco Perduca: We can take one last, if there is, and then we go to – yes please.

Randy Thompson, Help Not Handcuffs: Thank you so much for putting this together. It's been invaluable to hear your voices and your perspectives. Just personally, as a survivor of police violence, I can't believe what was just said, that in the face of 8,000 people murdered in the streets we have to hear this.

I just want to say that the other people in the room that are seeing what is happening, we've launched a letter calling on the ICC to be involved. I think Alison you say you have a letter. I just encourage you to act on that, to move forward on that. I am really beside myself to sit in this room and listen to the response. I know this individual has a job to do, but I am flabbergasted by that. Thank you again, once more.

Perduca: Thank you. Chito, do you want to start?

Gascon:

Okay, thank you first for your questions and your interventions. By way of responding to them, I will agree with my dear friend, who I haven't seen in decades, S. Confiado, that there is an existential threat in the country. But that existential threat is not really about the safety and security of our young. The existential threat is a direct assault on human rights, rule of law, and democracy in the country.

Marco referred to the undermining of freedom of speech. It actually goes beyond that. Because as he mentioned, those that are opposed to this policy, are calling for a review and assessment of it, are now being subjected to threats, intimidation, harassment, and possible prosecution. A sitting senator who was five years Minister of Justice and two years Chair of the Commission on Human Rights was arrested two weeks ago, on what I view to be essentially trumped up charges. Because the evidence that they are presenting are suspect evidence, statements from convicts inside jail serving long prison terms, now saying after many years that this senator took money from them. That is the nature of what's happening.

So, and of course, the vice president is very courageous, making her statements, she too is subjected to intimidation and attacks, largely from the supporters [of the president]. As our colleagues have said, this war on drugs is popularly supported by the public. It has been embraced by the public, 80% approval rating. He won by 39% of the vote. So he has consolidated power, and support beyond those who have voted for him.

And so, this is going to be a long haul of work. There are institutions that are pushing back. There are the human rights defenders that are doing their work on a daily basis, trying to document this. As I said, it's unprecedented – even us, the Commission on Human Rights, which has staff to investigate, cannot cover 100% of all of these cases. We will try our level best to do so, but to do so, we have to work with journalists, NGOs, human rights defenders. And they have been receiving, right now more verbal threats. There haven't been any direct attacks on any human rights defenders. We have received reports from human rights defenders that state that they are on some form of watch list and surveillance, but that's par for the course. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen, so to speak.

We are trying to improve ways and means to address that problem, early warning mechanisms, provision of sanctuaries and refuge, and so on. And this is actually one big challenge. Because in the past, we do have a witness protection program that was essentially a halfway house program, where people came to us, and we would ultimately refer them to the Dept. of Justice. Unfortunately, now many of those that are seeking witness protection from us are unable or unwilling to be referred to the Dept. of Justice, for obvious reasons. So we are trying to develop new mechanisms. So there is pushback.

As I said, I still have faith in our legal process, but the government has to step up and show more commitment to this beyond statements made in the UN. It must show and manifest itself on the ground. The president put a pause in the killings when he said, when there were charges of corruption involving the killing of a Korean national. And he said he would have this investigated, and he said 40% of the police force are corrupt. Two weeks after, he sends the police to continue this war on drugs, but he has not yet solved the 40% corruption in our police force. That is the problem that we have.

When we have a law enforcement mechanism that is suspect – now I don't want to cast aspersions that they're all corrupt: No. We have good people in the police force. But under the circumstances where their commander-in-chief has said "I will continue this war on drugs" – not considering a more comprehensive and holistic approach – maybe our friends at lower levels are trying their very best to create these interventions, but it's coming from the very top. And the very top is saying – and you heard him say it himself – he wants the killing to continue. And that's why we say this can't be sustained. We need to have a human rights-based approach to the drug problem.

Marco Perduca: Thank you.

David Borden: So we've been asked for one minute to talk about disciplinary acts. I request that it does be limited to one minute, because we're over time, and another organization is waiting to come in.

Earl Saavedra:

Good afternoon. Thank you very much. I'm Earl Saavedra, the Deputy Executive Director of the Dangerous Drugs Board of the Republic of the Philippines.

It was mentioned earlier regarding the legal processes which are being exhausted in terms of how the law enforcers deal with our war on drugs. I would like to provide everyone with these updated data regarding the internal cleansing being initiated by our Philippine National Police, one of the organizations in charge of drug abuse prevention and control.

So from July 1, 2016 to January 29 of 2017, the number of law enforcers who were administratively charged reached 21, criminally charged also reached 21, those killed during law enforcement operations reached 21, deaths under investigation 11, arrested 54, and those who surrendered under the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte reached 43, and those who voluntarily surrendered reached 18.

So these are so far the up-to-date figures which we have, and we may be able to share some of these data to the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, and perhaps we could have a dialogue on this so we could definitely look into the other facts that we may be able to share through your office.

For those who would like to get more information, we're very much willing to share with you whatever available data we have right now. Because as what we have mentioned this is a comprehensive approach in order to address the concern on drug abuse prevention. Thank you.

David Borden: And just three quick notes on your way out. One, I neglected to mention before the group Liberal International also played a key role in helping us put this together. We're grateful for the tangible support from cosponsors, including the Luca Coscioni Association and Drug Policy Alliance, and of course from all the other cosponsors. There are copies of the Amnesty International Report that the video is connected to, on the table outside. And if anyone has not signed in yet and is willing to do so there are some sign in sheets floating around. Thank you all for coming.

– END –

Summary, "Human Rights Challenge, Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War," March 16 2017, UN in Vienna

Summary of the side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, 16 March 2017: "Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Executions in the Drug War"

prepared by Alison A. Smith, Counsel and Director of Criminal Justice Program, No Peace Without Justice,

1. Side event overview

Since his rise to power, President Duterte has engaged in an infamous "war on drugs" that has led to the extrajudicial killing of thousands of alleged drug users and dealers. More than 7,000 people have been killed since President Duterte started his anti-illegal drug campaign after taking office in May 2016. Despite increasing criticism from international and national human rights organizations, he repeatedly expressed his delight at the deadly results of his campaign and emphasized that the war on drugs will continue until his term ends in 2022.

Interviews with witnesses and open source research conducted by Amnesty International highlights the cruelty of the war on drugs and its far-reaching social effects, to which mostly people from poor neighborhoods fall victim. There is increasing reason to believe that the extrajudicial killings follow a certain pattern or policy. The rhetoric of President Duterte openly dehumanizes drug users, encouraging violence and promising impunity for anyone involved in the killing of drug users. In light of such findings, the possibility of investigations by the International Criminal Court, to which the Philippines acceded in 2011, are being discussed within the international human rights community.

The side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs was organized by DRCNet Foundation and cosponsored by the AFEW International, Associazione Luca Coscioni, Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, Drug Policy Alliance, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, Liberal International, No Peace Without Justice, Persaudaraan Korban Napza Indonesia and Union C (Nepal). Moderated by David Borden, Executive Director of DRCNet Foundation (also known as StoptheDrugWar.org), and Marco Perduca, former senator of the Italian Radical Party, the event opened the floor to different perspectives on the war on drugs, including the Vice President of the Philippines, speakers from human rights organizations and Philippine human rights bodies and representatives of the Philippine government. As might be expected, the opinions of the government vs. other presenters'' differed very strongly.

Speakers representing human rights organizations embedded the ongoing war on drugs in a global trend of authoritarian and populist leadership, pointing to retrogressive developments in human rights and democracy standards. Calling for an immediate stop to the killings, there was agreement to condemn the war on drugs as an unacceptable and inhumane approach to tackle drug problems which may constitute as crimes against humanity according to international criminal law. If the Philippine justice system continuously fails to take up efficient investigations in that matter, participants expressed their support for an intervention by the International Criminal Court. Further major criticisms referred to the lack of transparent data and figures, the non-collaboration of police forces and judicial harassments or threats against those denouncing the human rights implications of the war on drugs.

As a response, the Philippine Government justified its war on drugs as a legitimate campaign that is necessary to serve its democratic duty and address the drug menace that threatens the well-being of its society. Claiming that many killings are occurring out of self-defense in legitimate police operations and that the implementation of comprehensive public health measures are equally part of the anti-drug campaign, the Philippine Government emphasized the need to put the war on drugs into context. The government assured that murders committed by unknown assailants would be investigated and stressed its respect for human rights and social justice.

Regional perspectives and experiences shared at the side event helped to illustrate the political dimension of the Philippines war on drugs. Drug trade and consumption seems to be a topic of high concern to the public and tends to be politicized by authoritarian-leaning governments. Other than investigating and prosecuting the extra-judicial killings that have taken place within the war on drugs, it is therefore crucial to come up with an alternative solution that takes the fears of Philippine voters seriously. With that in mind, participants from human rights organizations called upon the international community to collaborate in adopting a comprehensive public health approach and to help fighting illegal drug trade in the region.

2. Side event summary

In his introductory remarks, moderator David Borden (DRCNet) drew attention to the global rise of populist and authoritarian leadership. The tendency to politicize tensions among different identity groups has challenged the fulfilment of international human rights standards, increasing violence, hatred and anti-democratic movements all over the world. In this context, Mr. Borden pointed out that it is the most urgent priority to not let the brutal Philippine war on drugs become a model for other leaders. He went on to emphasize the importance of human rights leaders that dare to speak out against President Duterte's anti-drug campaign. In that respect, Mr. Borden especially thanked Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo and the Philippine Commission of Human Rights (CHRP) Chair Chito Gascon.

Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo (video message) clearly condemned the ongoing war on drugs and referred to the 7,000 killings that have taken place since July 2016 as "summary executions." The government's brutal anti-illegal drug campaign fails to address the very nature of the country's drug problem: The consumption and circulation of drugs is a complex public health issue, closely linked to poverty and social inequality. Consequentially, those most affected are residents of Manila's poorest neighborhoods who are not only mourning the loss of family members but are also subjected to the discriminatory and arbitrary behavior of police officials. Reportedly, people searched in drug raids were denied search warrants because they were living as squatters and lacked proof of property. Family members of alleged drug users who were listed by the police but could not be found were arrested as substitutes. As a result, the relationship to police forces has deteriorated significantly, undermining the overall feeling of safety and trust in authorities among the Philippines' largest communities. Instead of increasing security and eliminating criminality, Vice President Robredo predicted that the war on drugs will create new issues of public concern requiring legal and psychological support for affected individuals.

Vice President Robredo lamented that the anti-illegal drug campaign lacks transparency, particularly in respect of reliable statistics on the actual extent of the Philippine's drug problem and the lack of investigative efforts. Around 500 cases of extrajudicial killings have been filed with the Philippine Commission of Human Rights (CHRP) but until today none of these cases has undergone further investigations by the Department of Justice (DOJ). She further recalled the country's historical achievements, fighting for democratic values and respect for human rights under martial law imposed by former dictator Marcos. Against this background, she appealed to the Filipino people to watch carefully the human rights implications of the anti-illegal drug campaign and other happenings such as the potential reintroduction of the death penalty and the lowering of criminal liability to the age of nine years. The Vice President made it clear that in her opinion, a holistic public health policy, including educational and psychological interventions, can be the only approach consistent with respect for people's dignity and human rights to tackle the Philippines drug problem.

Lousewies van der Laan (video message), former leader of the Dutch D66 Liberal Party and spokeswoman on justice in the Dutch and European Parliament, reinforced the argument of previous speaker Vice President Robredo that drug use cannot be seen in isolation from complex social and health dynamics. As former chief of staff of the President of the International Criminal Court, she recalled the strong participation of active Philippine civil society organizations that she experienced during preparations for the country's ratification of the Rome Statute in 2011. The then Philippine president Benigno Aquino explained his decision to ask the country's Senate to ratify the Rome Statute by saying that the high number of Filipino nationals living and working abroad could only be protected if the Philippines contributed to setting a high international standard of human rights and rule of law. With that in mind, Ms. Van der Laan stressed the importance of Philippine civil society and motivated politicians to stand united against human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Abhisit Vejjajiva (video message), is the former Prime Minister of Thailand and Chairman of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), a network of regional liberal and democratic parties which cosponsored the side event. In line with previous speakers, Mr. Vejjajiva criticized the Philippine government for ongoing human rights abuses within its anti-drug campaign. This brutal approach to tackle drug related issues risks having a profound negative impact on other countries in the region, of which Thailand has already engaged in similarly cruel anti-drug policies in the past, and Cambodia is potentially at risk for. In order to end ongoing violence and find adequate responses for the region's drug problem, the political dimensions of such anti-drug campaigns need to be addressed first. A majority of the region's population feel that drugs are a significant problem in their societies and are not adequately addressed. As a consequence, despite the high number of killings, such anti-drug campaigns are widely supported by the public, encouraging and legitimizing the radical approach of authoritarian governments. Mr. Vejjajiva argued that both among societies and political leaders, there needs to be more awareness of the negative implications such drug wars can have. He cited former President of Colombia Cesar Gaviria, who has argued that anti-drug policies in his country have created new problems: driving the drug trade underground, preventing users from seeking rehabilitation services and increasing corruption among police forces and state officials.

In order to stop the killings in anti-drug campaigns and reduce political support for authoritarian leaders, those advocating for human rights and the rule of law need to come up with a credible alternative solution to tackle drug issues. In this regard, the international human rights community has both to continue its pressure on authoritarian governments and convey a strong message to the wider public, raising awareness that extrajudicial killings are not the right approach to address drug issues but are illegal and anti-democratic in their very nature.

Alison Smith, Director of the International Criminal Justice Program with No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), reported on the international criminal law implications of the Philippine war on drugs. Having acceded to the Rome Statute in 2011, potential war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide taking place in the Philippines can be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC. Since the Philippine war on drugs is not related to a conflict and does not include a specific intent to eliminate a protected group, war crimes and genocide do not fall within the scope of this analysis. Instead, based on NPWJ's research of open-source information, Ms. Smith concluded that crimes against humanity have been committed since the war on drugs started in May 2016. The killings within the Philippine anti-drug campaign do not appear to be justified by law and therefore constitute an act of murder, which is the first to be prohibited under crimes against humanity in the Rome Statute. The context of this act, which is that it needs to take place as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to a state or organizational policy to commit the attack, is equally shown in the Philippine case. The large number of extra-judicial killings within the war on drugs aggregate to an attack, which international criminal law has interpreted as the commission of multiple acts prohibited within the context of crimes against humanity. Furthermore, international criminal law does not require a formal or written plan to prove that crimes against humanity are committed on the basis of a state or organizational policy. The systematic nature of the killings in the Philippine war on drugs and promises that perpetrators will enjoy immunity from jurisdiction infer that there is either a state policy or a general agreement to allow such attacks to take place. In the light of the above, Ms. Smith appealed to the Philippine authorities to stop extrajudicial killings and fulfill their international obligations by investigating and prosecuting these crimes against humanity.

Chito Gascon, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Republic of the Philippines (CHR), associated the brutal war on drugs directly with Rodrigo Duterte's presidency and stressed that the number and pace of killings has reached an alarming level, which so far has been unprecedented in the ASEAN region. According to Mr. Gascon, among the close to 8,000 deaths, one third were killed by police officials and justified for the purpose of self-defense in ostensibly lawful police operations. The other two thirds were supposedly killed by unknown assailants and have been labelled as "deaths under investigation" (DUIs) by government authorities. In reference to the lack of national investigation efforts highlighted by previous speakers, Mr. Gascon reported that so far no police officer has been charged. Instead, the self-defense argument appears to be used to circumvent longstanding internal police regulations for investigating the use of firearms in operations. For instance, previous policies imposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that required further examination of cases involving the use of force for the purpose of self-defense in front of a court, appear to have been abandoned under the Duterte administration. However, Mr. Gascon pointed out that he still believes the Philippine justice system will be able to function if serious investigations are initiated soon and authorities are willing to cooperate with the CHR. In that respect, he reported on the non-cooperation of the police in about 500 CHR-led investigations, ignoring requests for access to documentation. In line with previous speakers, Mr. Gascon confirmed the possibility of ICC proceedings and urged the Philippine Government to instead stop the killings itself, to properly investigate the killings, and to approach the drug problem through a "harm reduction" public health approach.

Sulpicio Confiado, Deputy Chief of Mission, Counsel General and Deputy Permanent Representative from the Republic of the Philippines, read out a statement of the Philippine Government. Based on data released by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the government conceded that there is a need for further investigations but clearly dissociates itself from killings carried out by vigilante groups or syndicates, which the government claims are being investigated as murders. Mr. Confiado further clarified that this particularly applies to a small number of suspicious cases. In the opinion of the Philippine Government, the international community unfairly generalizes the high number of deaths as extrajudicial killings. These figures need to be put into perspective as some killings are causalities, occurring in legitimate police operations, and a good percentage are not drug related at all.

The Philippine Government strongly rejected accusations made by the international community and defended its anti-drug campaign as a necessary and politically legitimate approach. Based on section four of the Philippine Constitution, the government regards the war on drugs as a primary duty to protect the Philippine society from the dangers that drug consumption and trafficking pose to the well-being of society. According to the Philippine Government, the voluntary surrender of 100,000 people proved the dimension of this drug problem, which is affecting an estimated three million citizens. Eliminating the drug menace is a precondition to turn the very high percentage of young citizens into healthy members of society, allowing them to grow up in safe environments and fully enjoy human rights.

The statement further argued that the perspective of the international community is one-sided. The government claims to complement the anti-drug campaign with a holistic public health approach, promoting and implementing preventive, educational, rehabilitation and reintegration measures. This is embedded in the overall socioeconomic agenda of the current administration, whose primary goal is the alleviation of poverty. In this regard, Mr. Confiado listed successfully implemented reforms aiming to eradicate social inequality by addressing the needs of rural populations. The success of community based measures, involving communities in implementing rehabilitation centers and planning anti-drug strategies, are further proof of the government's respect for the dignity of marginalized social groups.

In the name of the Philippine Government, Mr. Confiado asked the international community to accept the anti-drug campaign as a legitimate and necessary step to serve and protect its population. He also called for more international collaboration and support in fighting the drug trade. The government statement ended by quoting the President' Duterte's State of the Nation address after his election, emphasizing that the government will fully commit to human rights, social justice and development. However, at the same time the quote insisted that international opinion will not limit the government's actions and decisions in protecting its citizens and promoting the well-being of society.

Following the speakers' statements, concerns and questions regarding available protection mechanisms for human rights defenders (Daniel Joloy, Amnesty International) and the potential powers of the Vice President's Office to oppose abuses, were raised. In reference to an earlier comment made by Marco Perduca, co-moderator and former Italian senator, who expressed his concern that those criticizing the war on drugs are harassed and curtailed in their right to freedom of speech, CHR Chair Chito Gascon reaffirmed the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in the Philippines. Those opposing President Duterte's policy risk being harassed, threatened, intimidated and prosecuted. In that respect, Mr. Gascon referred to the recent arrest and imprisonment of former Minister of Justice and former CHR Chair Leila De Lima as a prominent example. In his opinion, the testimonies of long term convicts suddenly accusing Senator De Lima of being involved in drug circulation confirm the suspicion of trumped up charges and fabricated evidence. Mr. Perduca strongly condemned the incarceration of Senator De Lima and noted the European Parliament had taken up a resolution on this matter. Mr. Gascon reported that Vice President Robredo appears to face similar challenges due to her outspoken criticism of the anti-illegal drug campaign. However, the Vice President's powers are very limited as long as President Duterte knows that 80 % of the population approve of his job performance and that a majority in Congress support his policies.

A last comment was made by Earl Saavedra, Deputy Executive Director of the Dangerous Drugs Board of the Republic of the Philippines, who presented updated figures on the war on drugs released by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Between July 1, 2016 and January 29, 2017, 21 law enforcers were administratively charged and another 21 criminally charged. During law enforcement operations involving DUI matters, 11 officials were charged. Fifty-four officials were charged related to operations aiming to arrest drug traffickers. Another 43 law enforcers were charged in regard to President Duterte's pronouncement to surrender and 18 within his call for voluntary surrender. Mr. Saavedra reaffirmed the government's holistic approach to preventing drug use and assured the collaboration of his institution, offering to share whatever data is available.

 

– END –

Reforming Global Drug Policy

While drug policy is primarily a national issue, there are needs and opportunities at the international level, and in US foreign policy, and global drug policy has an impact abroad and at home.

 
 
WashingtonPost.com story on our
UNGASS coalition statement

StoptheDrugWar.org plays a leading role in US-based global drug policy reform. We advocated at the United Nations and to the Obama administration during the lead-up to the second-ever "UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem" (UNGASS) in April 2016, the first session at that level since 1998.

Our work has advanced the dialogue on the UN drug control treaties vs. legalization of marijuana or other drugs, and promoted the idea that human rights takes precedence over drug control objectives when the two are in conflict. We have argued for a range of reforms in the areas of public health, development, and access to medicine, all in turn based on human rights principles. Since 2017 we have also done high-profile work on the extrajudicial drug war killings situation in the Philippines.

Our 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation Inc., has been an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since July 2016. This enables us to deliver interventions (short speeches) at UN meetings, to organize side events at longer UN sessions, and to help other advocates get admitted to UN meetings.

Drug policy is implicated in global criminal justice and human rights issues such as sentencing and the death penalty. It affects public health issues like AIDS and Hepatitis C. Development is affected by drug policy, as are crime and security. The international system has made opioid pain medications largely unavailable in most countries. UN drug scheduling is a discouragement to governments wishing to legalize medical marijuana.

With respect to legalization, the big UN issue is treaties that have language proscribing it. The US position has been that marijuana is federally legal, and that tolerating state legalization is a mere prioritization of resources. This argument, however, is not well respected and has at best short-term value. While some jurisdictions have moved forward with legalization despite adverse treaty language, this comes at a diplomatic cost, and the current state of the treaties and other UN drug policies is a discouragement for many countries. (The end notes in our sign-on documents, all linked below, are a good source for reading on all these issues.)

Some of our work in this area, in reverse-chronological order:

Organized a global sign-on statement on the Philippines extrajudicial drug war killings situation, released during the November 2017 ASEAN Summit. The statement calls for a UN-led investigation into the Philippine extrajudicial drug war killings and for international aid donor governments to pressure the Duterte administration on the issue. Press coverage of the statement included articles in major Philippine news outlets, including the Daily Inquirer, Rappler, Interaksyon and the Philippine Star.

Submitted a statement for the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 2017 Integration Segment (April 2017). The statement makes the case that adjustments are needed to drug policy in order to make the eradication of poverty a truly integral objective of UN programs, and noted several ways in which prohibitionist drug policies work against achievement of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

 

In March 2017 we presented "Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War," a side event at the annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting, dealing with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war mass murder campaign. Vice President Leni Robredo of the Philippines, a critic of the killings, sent us a video for the event, which we also released online, initially through an exclusive on the TIME web site which was followed up by an interview.


Robredo's video drew massive attention in the Philippines and some internationally. Unfortunately, opponents of the vice president used the video to attack her politically, leading to a campaign for her impeachment, a threat which is currently being considered by the Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives. We regret that political leaders of the Philippines misrepresented our event to attack the vice president, instead of facing the grim reality of widespread human rights abuses.

More information on our Philippines-related work, including full video footage and transcripts of our side event, as well as press coverage, is available here.

Also at the 2017 CND, we organized an NGO sign-on statement (initial submission on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime web site, updated version with more signatories on our web site). A major signatory on this statement, new to our global drug policy efforts, is the National Organization for Women (NOW).


We served as the ECOSOC sponsor
enabling this photo exhibit on Supervised
Injection Facilities to be presented at the
2017 UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs
meeting in Vienna.

 

We also served as ECOSOC sponsor for a side event on marijuana regulation and a photo exhibit on safe injection sites organized by European partners. David Borden presented on the panel, discussing the "path toward consensus" on marijuana legalization in the US. Since 2016 we have also provided UN accreditation for these and other partners in advocacy efforts on marijuana's status in the UN drug scheduling system, enabling them to serve as representatives to the UN facilities in Geneva and Vienna; and have served as the charitable sponsor nonprofit for donations to the project.

 

David Borden delivered an invited intervention on the relationship between drug policy and the Sustainable Development Goals, for the January 2017 Intersessional CND meeting (transcript on UNODC web site). The remarks noted tensions between drug prohibition and SDG goals #1 (poverty), #3 (health), #8 (work), #10 (inequality), and #16 (peace, justice and strong institutions. The remarks also noted the decline in global AIDS funding, particularly for programs responding to injection drug use.
 

 

David Borden delivered an intervention at the June 2016 High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS at the UN in New York, panel discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals. The remarks discussed ways that prohibition and the drug war contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS, and called for the UN to take on these issues during the upcoming 2019 High Level Review of UN drug policy.


 

 

David Borden delivered an intervention during the April 2016 UNGASS, Roundtable on Cross-Cutting Issues. The remarks criticized the rationale countries had offered for avoiding any discussion of possible modifications to the treaties, noting that it's the norm for treaties to be updated at times. Borden also called for regulatory approaches to be considered for New Psychoactive Substances, one of several major issue areas in drug policy that the UN has identified, not solely prohibitionist ones.

Organized a teleconference for media on prospects for marijuana legalization in Canada and Mexico, featuring Mexican Senator Laura Rojas and Canadian Member of Parliament, as well as representatives of leading NGOs in both countries:

media coverage of the teleconference:

  • Extract (Sun-Times) (4/6/16)
  • High Times (4/7/16)
  • Leafly(4/7/16)
  • Cannabis Wire (4/9/16)
  • Civilized (4/10/16)
  • Drug Truth Network (here and here) (4/10/16)
  • Seattle Times editorial (4/17/16) – we're not mentioned, but provided information
  • New York Times (4/18/16) – we're not mentioned, but provided information. The article was the first in a major media outlet to note the US opposed taking up treaty reform at the UN, despite US movement toward legalization.

Our signature effort for the UNGASS was a major sign-on statement with nearly 350 organizational signatories, released to media and at the UN in May 2015 and again in April 2016. The statement was endorsed by such leading NGOs as ACLU, Human Rights Watch and AIDS United.

The statement argues that in cases of irreconcilable conflict, nations' obligations under the human rights treaties, which are enshrined as fundamental in the United Nations Charter, take precedence over provisions of the drug control treaties.

The statement also calls for a range of improvements to policies in areas such as development, public health and security; for the UN to appoint a "Committee of Experts" to study the topic of drug treaty reform; and calls on the Obama administration to harmonize its foreign policy on drugs with its domestic policies by providing leadership at the UN to make that happen.

media coverage of the statement:

We also organized a sign-on letter to President Obama in advance of the March 2016 Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting that preceded UNGASS. It noted positive aspects to the administration's approach to UNGASS, but argued that "in key respects... the... US position for UNGASS [took] a short-term approach, stopping short of the crucial reforms called for by UN agencies and US allies, while failing to address new realities." The letter generated a great deal of excitement in the NGO community, and was signed by over 250 organizations in a short period of time, many of them representing mainstream issues affected by drug policy.

media coverage of the sign-on letter:

 

David Borden presented at a February 2016 preparatory event for UNGASS, at the UN in New York.

In April 2015 we organized a sign-on letter protesting the resumption of executions for drug offenses by the government of Indonesia. The link is to a copy of the letter published as part of an article in Huffington Post, linked from their home page for 24 hours.



 

What happened at UNGASS?

April's UNGASS was called at the request of the governments of Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala, nations for which the illicit drug trade creates security issues. Their hope was the UNGASS would be a platform for discussing fundamental issues and beginning a new course.

Reform met with resistance. Hard-line countries led by Russia and China opposed or diluted most reform-oriented proposals. European governments downplayed the importance of this NYC-based session, wishing to keep the center of gravity in UN drug policy in the smaller Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), based in Vienna, Austria. The UN works mainly by consensus, which meant there were limits on what any country or faction could accomplish.

The US, while advocating some good stances, opposed treaty reform, despite (or perhaps because of) the treaty issues that marijuana legalization presents. Reportedly the US lobbied other countries to oppose treaty reform as well. As a result, perhaps, many countries' position statements for UNGASS called for "commitment to the three UN drug conventions" or to "the integrity of the conventions" – code language for not changing them.

There were some victories. As part of the process, UN agencies submitted their own position papers, many highly progressive, as were the submissions from some countries and international organizations. EU states and others fought hard for language opposing the death penalty for drug offenses, though unsuccessfully. All that discussion is on the record. Civil society engagement brought more groups into drug policy reform, more fully, and NGOs gained more involvement.

And while the UNGASS Outcome Document avoids most big issues, it puts strong emphasis on treatment and alternatives to incarceration. It acknowledges the importance of human rights and proportionate sentencing. It has support for naloxone (the overdose antidote), medication-assisted treatment (e.g. methadone and buprenorphine), and safe injecting equipment, though avoiding the term "harm reduction" itself. It calls for addressing obstacles to opioid availability.

A detailed UNGASS report by the International Drug Policy Consortium is online here.

 

 

 

Chronicle AM: Norway Moves Toward Drug Decrim, WHO Gives Thumbs Up to CBD, More... (12/14/17)

Norway moves down the path toward drug decriminalization, a New Hampshire legislative committee votes down a legalization bill, the WHO gives a thumbs up to CBD, and more.

CBD ointment. The World Health Organization has declared CBD non-addictive and non-toxic. (Pinterest)
Marijuana Policy

Illinois' Cook County to Vote on Non-Binding Legalization Referendum. The county commission voted Wednesday to put an advisory referendum on whether marijuana should be legalized on the March primary ballot. While the vote is only advisory, a strong "yes" vote in the state's most populous county would send a signal to state legislators in Peoria, who will be considering legalization next year.

New Hampshire House Committee Votes Down Marijuana Legalization Bill. The House Criminal Justice Committee voted 13-7 Tuesday to kill a legalization bill, House Bill 656.

International

World Health Organization Declares CBD Non-Addictive, Not-Toxic. In a recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared cannabidiol (CBD) non-addictive and non-toxic. "In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential," WHO concluded. The organization's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) found "no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD." The committee also found that clinical trials showed CBD could be useful for treating epilepsy and "a number of other medical conditions."

Norway Begins Move to Drug Decriminalization. A majority of the parliament has moved to begin shifting the country's drug policies toward decriminalization. "The majority in the parliament has asked the government to prepare for reform," a spokesperson for the Storting told Newsweek. "It has started a political process," he said. But he cautioned that "it's just the starting point," and that there's no legislation yet. Parliamentarians will be heading to Portugal in the spring to see how the Portuguese did it.

Global Coalition Calls for International Criminal Court to Intervene in Philippines. A coalition of dozens of groups and individuals worldwide led by Help Not Handcuffs has sent an open letter to the International Criminal Court urging it to investigate the Duterte government for crimes against humanity for the wave of killings of suspected drug users and sellers that has left thousands of people dead in the last year.

December 10 is Human Rights Day

This Sunday, December 10, is the UN Human Rights Day, with the week being marked by observances and events around the world. UN agencies have made significant progress in recognizing the impact of drug policies and human rights, and our own efforts for the 2016 "UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem" (UNGASS) brought together hundreds of NGOs arguing for human rights as the basis not only for drug policy reform, but even for questioning prohibition. One resource on the intersection of drugs and human rights is a set of fact sheets published by the Open Society Foundations, and many more can be found through a web search.

Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the drafting committee for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (un.org)
As many of our readers know, StoptheDrugWar.org has been engaged in advocacy seeking to stop the campaign of drug war killings taking place in the Philippines. The link includes actions you can take including writing the US Congress about our foreign aid. One of our partners, the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance, and others are organizing a number of events for Human Rights Day. Some of the locations include Los Angeles, SF and the Bay Area, Chicago, Sydney, Melbourne, Paris and Bahrain -- email us if you want info on where to find them.

There is late-breaking word that the Philippines intends to announce its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court at the UN today. We'll post more on the site when we know it.

Earlier this week Foreign Policy magazine accorded its prestigious Global Thinker award to Senator Leila de Lima, who is in her 287th day of detention since challenging Philippine President Duterte on the killings. You can read her remarks online here. A video about Sen. de Lima's saga is online here. Lastly for the moment, a solidarity message for Human Rights Day from Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes.

Looking Back: The Biggest International Drug Policy Stories of the Past 20 Years [FEATURE]

With a thousand issues of Drug War Chronicle under our belts, we look back on the biggest international drug and drug policy stories of the past 20 years. (A companion piece looks at the biggest US domestic drug policy stories.) Here's what we find:

The 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. We've made some progress since then. (Creative Commons)
1. Global Prohibitionist Consensus Starts to Crumble

In 1998, the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), with anti-prohibitionist voices in the room but metaphorically on the outside, pledged itself to eradicating drugs in 10 years. That didn't happen. Now, nearly 20 years later, it is duly chastened, and the chorus of critics is much louder, but the UN still remains a painfully slow place to try to make change in global drug policy.

Yet, despite the foot-dragging in Vienna and New York, albeit at a glacial pace. The 2016 UNGASS couldn't bring itself to actually say the words "harm reduction," but acknowledged the practice in its documents. It couldn't bring itself to resolve to be against the death penalty in drug cases, but a large and growing number of member states spoke out against it. It couldn't officially acknowledge that there is "widespread recognition from several quarters, including UN member states and entities and civil society, of the collateral harms of current drug policies, and that new approaches are both urgent and necessary," even though that's what the UN Development Program said. And the UN admitted to having dropped the ball on making opioid analgesics available in the developing world.

It certainly wasn't ready to talk about drug legalization in any serious fashion. But despite the rigidity within the global anti-drug bureaucracy, driven in part by the hardline positions of many Asian and Middle Eastern member states, the global prohibitionist consensus is crumbling. Many European and Latin America states are ready for a new direction, and some aren't waiting for the UN's imprimatur. Bolivia has rejected the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs' provision criminalizing the coca plant, and Canada and Uruguay have both legalized marijuana with scant regard for UN treaty prohibitions. And of course there is Portugal's broad decriminalization system, encompassing all drugs.

There's a real lesson in all of this: The UN drug treaties, the legal backbone of global drug prohibition, have proven to be toothless. There is no effective mechanism for punishing most countries for violating those treaties, at least not relative to the punishing effects they suffer from prohibition. Other countries will take heed.

2. Afghanistan Remains the World's Opium Breadbasket

When the US invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, it entered into a seemingly endless war to defeat the Taliban and, along with it, the opium trade. Sixteen years and more than a trillion dollars later, it has defeated neither. Afghanistan was already the world's leading producer of opium then, and it still is.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2000, the country produced more than 3,000 tons of opium. The following year, with the Taliban imposing a ban on poppy planting in return for US aid and international approval, production dropped to near zero. But in 2002, production was back to more than 3,000 tons, and Afghan poppy farmers haven't looked back since.

In the intervening years, Afghanistan has accounted for the vast majority of global opium production, reaching 90% in 2007 before plateauing to around 70% now (as production increases in Latin America). It has consistently produced at least 3,000 tons a year, with that amount doubling in selected years.

For years, US policymakers were caught in a dilemma, and drug war imperatives were subordinated to anti-Taliban imperatives. The problem was that any attempt to go after opium threatened to push peasants into the hands of the Taliban. Now, the Trump administration is bombing Taliban heroin facilities. But it hasn't bombed any heroin facilities linked to corrupt Afghan government officials.

Holland's famous cannabis cafes were the first break with global marijuana prohibition. (Creative Commons)
3. Movement Toward Acceptance of Recreational Marijuana

Twenty years ago, only the Netherlands had come to terms -- sort of -- with marijuana, formally keeping it illegal, but, in a prime example of the Dutch's policy of gedogen (pragmatic tolerance), with possession and sale of small amounts allowed. (The Dutch are only now finally dealing with the "backdoor problem," the question of where cannabis cafes are supposed to get their supplies if it can't be grown legally).

The first entities to legalize marijuana were the US states of Colorado and Washington in 2012, and Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana in 2014. Canada will become the second country to do so next year. In the meantime, six more US states and the District of Columbia have also jumped on the bandwagon.

While full legalization may yet be a bridge too far for most European and Latin American countries, marijuana decriminalization has really taken hold there, with numerous countries in both regions having embraced the policy. Marijuana has now been decriminalized in Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia (you can possess up to 22 grams legally), Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Equador, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine, among others. Oh, and Iran, too.

4. Andean Whack-A-Mole: The Fruitless Quest to Quash Cocaine

The United States, and to a much lesser degree, the European Union, have spent billions of dollars trying to suppress coca leaf cultivation and cocaine production in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. It hasn't worked.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), coca leaf cultivation was just under 500,000 acres in 1998; this week, UNODC reported that coca leaf cultivation was at 470,000 acres last year -- and that's not counting the 75,000 acres under legal cultivation in Bolivia.

When it comes to actual cocaine production, it's pretty much the same story: Again according to the UNODC, cocaine production was at 825 tons in 1998, peaked at just over a million tons a year in 2004-2007, and is now at just under 800 tons. There have been peaks and troughs, but here we are, pretty much in the same place we started.

Military intervention didn't stop it. Military and anti-drug assistance hasn't stopped it. Alternative development programs haven't stopped it. The global cocaine market is insatiable, and nothing has been able to tear Andean peasant farmers from what is by far their best cash crop. Bolivia, at least, has largely made peace with coca -- although not cocaine -- providing a legal, regulated market for coca farmers, but in Peru and Colombia eradication and redevelopment efforts continue to spark conflict and social unrest.

5. Mexico's Brutal Drug Wars

During the 1980s and 1990s, accusations ran rampant that in a sort of pax mafiosi, the Mexican government cut deals with leading drug trafficking groups to not so much fight the drug trade as manage it. Those were the days of single party rule by the PRI, which ended with the election of Vicente Fox in 2000. With the end of single party rule, the era of relative peace in the drug business began to unravel.

As old arrangements between drug traffickers and political and law enforcement figures fell apart, so did the informal codes that governed trafficker behavior. When once a cartel capo would accept his exemplary arrest, during the Fox administration, the gangsters began shooting back at the cops -- and fighting among themselves over who would control which profitable franchise.

Things took a turn for the worse with the election of Felipe Calderon in 2006 and his effort to burnish his political credentials by sending in the army to fight the increasingly wealthy, violent, and brazen cartels. And they haven't gotten any better since. While American attention to Mexico's drug wars peaked in 2012 -- a presidential election year in both countries -- and while the US has thrown more than a billion dollars in anti-drug aid Mexico's way in the past few years, the violence, lawlessness, and corruption continues. The death toll is now estimated to be around 200,000, and there's no sign anything is going to change anytime soon.

Well, unless we take leading 2018 presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) at his word. This week, AMLO suggested a potential amnesty for cartel leaders, indicating, for some, at least, a pax mafiosi is better than a huge, endless pile of corpses.

6. Latin America Breaks Away from US Drug War Hegemony

The US imports its drugs and exports its prohibition-related violence, and the region grows tired of paying the price for America's war on its favorite vices. When once Latin American leaders quietly kowtowed to drug war demands from Washington, at least some of them have been singing a different tune in recent years.

Bolivia under Evo Morales has resolutely followed its own path on legalizing coca cultivation, despite bellows from Washington, successive Mexican presidents weary of the bloodshed turn an increasingly critical eye toward US drug war imperatives, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sees what Washington-imposed prohibitionist policies have done to his county and cries out for something different, and so did Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina before he was forced out of office on corruption charges.

Latin American countries are also increasingly pursuing their own drug policies, whether it's constitutionally protected legalization of personal use amounts of drugs in Colombia, decriminalization of marijuana across the continent, or downright legalization in Uruguay, Latin American leaders are no longer taking direction from Washington -- although they generally remain happy to take US anti-drug dollars.

A North American first: Vancouver's safe injection site opened in 2003. (Creative Commons)
7.Safe Injection Sites Start Spreading

The notion of providing a place where intravenous drug users could shoot up under medical supervision and get access to referrals to public health and welfare services was derided by foes as setting up "shooting galleries" and enabling drug use, but safe injection sites have proven to be an effective intervention, linked to reduced overdoses, reduced crime, and moving drug users toward treatment.

These examples of harm reduction in practice first appeared in Switzerland in the late 1980s; with facilities popping up in Germany and the Netherlands in the 1990s; Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, and Spain in the 2000s; and, most recently, Denmark and France.

By now, there are nearly a hundred safe injection sites operating in at least 61 cities worldwide, including 30 in Holland, 16 in Germany, and eight in Switzerland. We are likely to see safe injection sites in Ireland and Scotland very soon.

It looks like they will soon be appearing in the United States, too. Officials in at least two cities, San Francisco and Seattle, are well on the way to approving them, although the posture of the federal government could prove an obstacle.

8. And Heroin Maintenance, Too

Even more forward looking as a harm reduction measure than safe injection sites, heroin maintenance (or opiate-assisted treatment) has expanded slowly, but steadily over the past two decades. The Swiss did the first trials in 1994, and now such programs are available there (after decisively winning a 2008 referendum on the issue), as well as Germany and the Netherlands.

Such programs have been found to reduce harm by helping users control their drug use, reducing overdoses, reducing drug-related disease, and promoting overall health and well-being, while also reducing social harms by reducing crime related to scoring drugs, reducing public use and drug markets, and promoting less chaotic lifestyles among participants, leading to increased social integration and better family life and employment prospects.

A Canadian pilot program, the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) produced similar results. Maybe the United States will be ready to get it a try one of these years.

9. New Drugs, New Markets

So far, this has been the century of new drugs. Known variously as "research chemicals," "designer drugs," or fake this and that, let's call them new psychoactive substances (NSPs). Whether it's synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones, synthetic benzodiazepines, synthetic opioids, or something entirely novel, someone somewhere is producing it and selling it.

In its 2017 annual review, the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addictions (EMCDDA) reported in was monitoring 620 NSPs, up from 350 in 2013, and was adding new ones at the rate of over one a week.

These drugs, often of unknown quality or potency, in some cases have wreaked havoc among drug users around the world and are a prime example of the bad things that can happen when you try to suppress some drugs: You end up with worse ones.

The communications technology revolution that began with the world wide web impacts drug policy just as it impact everything else. Beginning with the infamous Silk Road drug sales website, the dark web and the Tor browser have enabled drug sellers and consumers to hook up anonymously online, with the drugs delivered to one's doorstep by Fedex, UPS, and the like.

Silk Road has been taken down and its proprietor, Ross Ulbricht, jailed for decades in the US, but as soon as Silk Road was down, new sites popped up. They got taken down, and again, new sites popped up. Rinse and repeat.

European authorities estimate the size of the dark web drug marketplace at about $200 million a year -- a fraction of the size of the overall trade -- but warn that it is growing rapidly. And why not? It's like an Amazon for drugs.

10.Massacring Drug Suspects in Southeast Asia

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has drawn international condemnation for the bloody war he unleashed on drug suspects upon taking office last year. Coming from a man who made his reputation for leading death squads while Mayor of Davao City, the wave of killings is shocking, but not surprising. The latest estimates are that some 12,000 people have been killed.

What's worse is that Duterte's bad example seems to be gaining some traction in the neighborhood. Human rights groups have pointed to a smaller wave of killings in Indonesia, along with various statements from Indonesian officials expressing support for Duterte-style drug executions. And most recently, a Malaysian member of parliament urged his own country to emulate Duterte's brutal crackdown.

This isn't the first time Southeast Asia has been the scene of murderous drug war brutality. Back in 2003, then Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra launched a war on drugs that saw 2,800 killed in three months.

Update and Action Alert: Trump, Duterte, Congress, and the Philippine Drug War Killings

Dear Reformer:

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte met for the first time, during the ASEAN Summit in Manila which Duterte hosted. As predicted, Trump did not raise human rights during their meeting, although a White House spokesperson claimed it came up "briefly" during a private discussion.

The top human rights issue Trump might have brought up with Duterte is the campaign of drug war killings that Duterte promised during his presidential campaign, and which he has followed through on since taking office in June last year. Human rights organizations and media have given estimates ranging from 7,000 to 14,000 killed already.

In a sign-on statement I organized, which has been endorsed by nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals and which we released this week in advance of the Trump-Duterte meeting, we note that the Philippine National Police (PNP) acknowledge over 3,900 people have been killed in anti-drug operations under the Duterte administration, plus nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still "unexplained." Our statement also notes the Philippines saw a roughly 50% increase in its official homicide rate, starting immediately when Duterte took office – hard to explain in the absence of an official policy of extrajudicial killing.

The statement was covered in articles on four important Philippines news outlets, including the Inquirer, Rappler (8th and 12th most read web sites in the Philippines respectively), the Philippine Star and InterAksyon. The Interaksyon article credited our coalition with renewing global calls for a UN-led probe into the drug war killings. Leading human rights organizations in the Philippines, Filipino American groups, top NGOs like NOW and Doctors of the World, and many others supported the statement. More than 50 of the NGOs endorsing it are based in Asia, including groups from a majority of the ASEAN states.

Should Trump have met individually with Duterte, and should he have pressed Duterte on human rights when he did? World leaders need to communicate with each other, and there's room for debate as to how best a US president should juggle competing interests. Unfortunately, Trump's silence on human rights during ASEAN leaves standing some incredibly harmful statements he has made on the matter in the past:

We will never know for sure if Trump's implicit greenlighting of Duterte's mass killing campaign led to more such killings, but it's possible. Clearly the president of Indonesia, who launched his own drug war mass murder campaign as part of a reelection strategy in August, must have taken note.

If the president won't lead on human rights, or even arguably helps to make things worse, then Congress should step in. That's why we are supporting S. 1055, "The Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017," bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Although not perfect, S. 1055 would impose important human rights conditions on law enforcement assistance to the Philippines, and would fund positive health programs as well as the work of Philippine human rights defenders. Among the bill's supporters are Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the iDEFEND human rights coalition in the Philippines, the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance, US Filipinos for Good Governance, and our close partners the Drug Policy Alliance.

Along with sending you this update, I also have the following three requests:

  1. If you are a US voter, please write to Congress in support of S. 1055, using the online write-to-Congress form we've set up. Please follow up on your email by calling your state's two Senators and your Representative. (But please do use the form too – this will enable us to contact you if you live in a key state or district.) The time to do this is now, because we are trying to influence the pending State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, over the next few weeks.
  2. Please help to publicize our statement and S. 1055. You can use the set of sample social posts we've prepared for Facebook and Twitter, copied below my signature. You can also go straight to our Twitter page, @stopthedrugwar, where we have already retweeted some of these as posted by others. We'll be posting more to Twitter and to our Facebook group later as well.
  3. We need your financial support for this effort, and for other work like publishing the Drug War Chronicle newsletter, a key tool for advocates and many others in the issue. Tax-deductible donations to our 501(c)(3) nonprofit, DRCNet Foundation, will support work like the Philippines statement and the newsletter. Non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Drug Reform Coordination Network, will support our legislative work directly supporting S. 1055, and other legislative matters in the US. If you would like to designate a gift for a specific program, please leave a note in the comment box on our donation form, or with your check if donating by mail. Links to both nonprofits' donation forms can be found at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, and our mailing address is P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016.

Thank you for helping and for your time reading this update. As we noted in the closing paragraphs of our Philippines statement, "Support for the global system of responsibilities and rights has become uncertain… lawlessness and extrajudicial violence must not become a model for more countries. When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now."

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
P.O. Box 9853 / Washington, DC 20016
http://stopthedrugwar.org
"U.S. and U.N. Drug Policy Reform"

Here are the sample social media posts:

Please help us by spreading the statement and news coverage on social media. Following are sample posts for Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter samples:

Posts highlighting S. 1055, the Philippines human rights appropriations bill in the US Senate:

Congress should press Philippines @OfficialDuterte to stop drug war killings, if @realDonaldTrump won't: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/633065/british-paper-s-banner-photo-of-trump-duterte-says-hand-in-hand-with-a-killer/story/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wibl5h2YZdM #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

@SenBobCorker @RepEdRoyce Please sponsor and move the Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act through your committees! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

Thank you @TLHumanRights Lantos Commission co-chairs @RepHultgren @RepMcGovern for highlighting Philippines extrajudicial drug war killings. https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2 #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines

@SenatorCardin @marcorubio Thank you for sponsoring Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act – civil society supports! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

@RepSpeier Thank you for speaking out against Philippines extrajudicial killings at @TLHumanRights – civil society supports! http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit #StopTheKillings https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines WRITE CONGRESS: https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2

Excerpts from the Statement:

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation. We… call on world leaders attending [#ASEANSummit] to unequivocally call for an end to the [Philippines drug war] killings…" https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings @UNHumanRights

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "Since the Philippines escalated its 'drug war'… over 3,900 people have been killed [by police] operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still 'unexplained'" say police. http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "If a government is unwilling or unable to seek justice, treaties allow for intervention by the International Criminal Court…" https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings @IntlCrimCourt

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now." http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We… urge the international community to fund Philippine human rights defenders at a level matching the crisis." http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @iDefendPH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGsJsfgvj_w @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Articles to Link:

Global coalition calls for end to Philippine drug war killings ahead of Trump's Philippines visit: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

International coalition calls for 'decisive actions' against drug war killings in Philippines: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @jodeszgavilan @rapplerdotcom @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Ahead of ASEAN, international coalition calls for probe into drug war killings: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @gaeacabico @PhilstarNews @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

On eve of ASEAN summit, more than 270 groups, individuals renew calls for UN-led probe of drug war killings: http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @interaksyon @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Press Release: Global Statement Calls for International Action on Philippine Drug War Killings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Trump Celebrates "Great Relationship" With Philippine President Duterte at ASEAN Summit http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2017/11/trump-celebrates-great-relationship-philippine-president-duterte-asean-summit @MMcFarlandSM @DrugPolicyOrg @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

@amnesty @hrw reports show government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/if-you-are-poor-you-are-killed-extrajudicial-executions-in-the-philippines-war-on-drugs/ https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/02/license-kill/philippine-police-killings-dutertes-war-drugs #StopTheKillings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar

Thank you @JustinTrudeau for pressing @OfficialDuterte on human rights, Philippines drug war: http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/trudeau-raises-concerns-with-duterte-over-bloody-drug-war-in-the-philippines #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar

Thank you @jacindaardern for pressing @OfficialDuterte on human rights, Philippines drug war: https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/188439-jacinda-ardern-comment-drug-war-asean-2017 #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar

Facebook sample posts:

Posts highlighting S. 1055, the Philippines human rights appropriations bill in the US Senate:

Congress should press Philippines to stop the extrajudicial drug war killings, if President Trump won't – enact S. 1055 to put human rights conditions on aid: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/633065/british-paper-s-banner-photo-of-trump-duterte-says-hand-in-hand-with-a-killer/story/ Read the NGO statement at https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/asean-philippines-sign-on-statement-november-2017.pdf. #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Sen. Corker, Rep. Royce, please sponsor and move the Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act through your committees! http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1055 #StoptheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Thank you Lantos Commission co-chairs Reps. Hultgren and McGovern for highlighting Philippines extrajudicial drug war killings in your July hearing. Civil society supports you: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings #StopTheKilling #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Thank you Sens. Cardin and Rubio for sponsoring Philippines Human Rights Accountability Act -- civil society supports you: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Thank you Rep. Speier for speaking out against Philippines extrajudicial killings https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/human-rights-consequences-war-drugs-philippines – civil society supports you: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing (US write to Congress at https://secure.everyaction.com/VuEJ0J0PW0uzZg1JzrB6bg2.)

Excerpts from the Statement:

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation. We… call on world leaders attending [#ASEANSummit] to unequivocally call for an end to the [Philippines drug war] killings…" https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "Since the Philippines escalated its 'drug war'… over 3,900 people have been killed [by police] operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still 'unexplained'" say police. http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "If a government is unwilling or unable to seek justice, treaties allow for intervention by the International Criminal Court…" https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act… The time for action is now." http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Nearly 300 NGOs and prominent individuals say: "We… urge the international community to fund Philippine human rights defenders at a level matching the crisis." http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @iDefendPH #StopTheKillings

Articles to Link:

Global coalition calls for end to Philippine drug war killings ahead of Trump's Philippines visit: http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

International coalition calls for 'decisive actions' against drug war killings in Philippines: https://www.rappler.com/nation/187940-international-coalition-decisive-actions-philippines-drug-war-killings @jodeszgavilan @rapplerdotcom @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Ahead of ASEAN, international coalition calls for probe into drug war killings: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/11/10/1757565/ahead-asean-international-coalition-calls-probe-drug-war-killings @gaeacabico @PhilstarNews @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

On eve of ASEAN summit, more than 270 groups, individuals renew calls for UN-led probe of drug war killings: http://www.interaksyon.com/on-eve-of-asean-summit-more-than-270-groups-individuals-renew-calls-for-un-led-probe-of-drug-war-killings/ @interaksyon @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings

Press Release: Global Statement Calls for International Action on Philippine Drug War Killings https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings @stopthedrugwar #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Trump Celebrates "Great Relationship" With Philippine President Duterte at ASEAN Summit http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2017/11/trump-celebrates-great-relationship-philippine-president-duterte-asean-summit #StopTheKillings #StartTheHealing

Other:

Amnesty International Report report shows government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/if-you-are-poor-you-are-killed-extrajudicial-executions-in-the-philippines-war-on-drugs/ #StopTheKillings Civil society calls for international action: https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings

Human Rights Watch report shows government responsible for drug war killings: https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/03/02/license-kill/philippine-police-killings-dutertes-war-drugs #StopTheKillings Civil society calls for international action: https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/nov/09/concern_over_philippine_killings

Thank you Prime Minister Trudeau for pressing Duterte on human rights in the Philippines drug war: http://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/trudeau-raises-concerns-with-duterte-over-bloody-drug-war-in-the-philippines Civil society supports you -- http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit

Thank you Prime Minister Ardern for pressing Duterte on human rights in the Philippines drug war: https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/188439-jacinda-ardern-comment-drug-war-asean-2017 Civil society supports you -- http://usa.inquirer.net/8011/global-coalition-calls-end-ejks-ahead-trumps-ph-visit

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