DRC’s Principal Kayvan Khalatbari Endorses Statement Calling for UN-Led investigation and action by ASEAN and the International Community to Intervene in the Deadly Philippine Drug War
The stakes are high. Presidents Trump, Duterte, and other world leaders are meeting early next week during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (“ASEAN”) Summit. President Duterte’s campaign of mass drug war killings has already spread in the region, while President Trump has openly showed support for Duterte — including support for Duterte’s deadly drug war. However, there are also forces in the U.S. administration and Congress that very much care about human rights, as there are in other countries, and a bill currently in the U.S. Senate would increase pressure on the Duterte administration if it passes.
In addition to nearly 100 Non-Government Organizations (“NGO’s”), political, legal, business and public health leaders and other endorsers, DRC’s Principal Kayvan Khalatbari signed on to an international drug reform coalition’s statement on the Philippine extrajudicial drug war killings – in an effort to raise attention to the seriousness of the Philippine drug war and the need for international intervention. The letter is included below.
A major and historic Philippine human rights organization, the Free Legal Assistance Group, endorsed this statement this weekend, and another major human rights group in that country is considering it now. Please consider standing with the courageous Filipinos and global community who are fighting for human rights and to stop Duterte’s vast violations of human rights and outright assault on the Philippine democracy.
The statement and latest list of endorsers is below. It’s a great start, but more endorsers are needed to make an impactful impression in the media as ASEAN and the Trump-Duterte meeting approach. Please send your endorsement or permission to add your NGO or name to the statement to Dave Borden at the International Drug Policy Reform Coalition: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the name and geographic scope of your organization, or your field and position for identification purposes if endorsing as an individual, and please also include any contact information that you are willing to provide, as well as your time zone if including phone number.
–David Borden, Executive Director StoptheDrugWar.org
READ FULL TEXT OF THE INTERNATIONAL DRUG POLICY REFORM COALITION STATEMENT:
Since the Philippines escalated its “drug war” in June of last year, over 3,900 people have been killed in anti-drug operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still “unexplained,” according to police reports. Estimates by media and human rights groups for the total drug war killings have ranged from 7,000 up to 14,000. Though the Duterte administration recently suspended most police participation in its drug war, it has done so before, with unclear impact.
Appearance suggests there may be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killing.
Officials insist drug suspects get killed from resisting arrest, and that other drug-related killings are from criminal gang fights. But authorities have opened investigations into just 1% of the acknowledged police killings, and initiated no prosecutions from them. Many believe government linked vigilantes or police account for some of the drug-related and unexplained killings.
Additional facts raise questions. The Philippines saw a 50% increase in the official homicide rate starting that June. Video shows police killing Kian delos Santos, an unarmed, cooperating 17-year old – one of 54 known cases of children under 18 killed in the Philippine drug war, including an infant. International NGOs and the Philippines’ own human rights defenders have documented many abuses, including incentive payments for killing.
We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation.
The first venue for justice is a nation’s own courts. If a government is unwilling or unable to seek justice, treaties allow for intervention by the International Criminal Court, or a similar body chartered for the situation. But the road to international justice is lengthy.
In the immediate present, the most feasible step forward is an investigation led by the UN. Such an investigation would probe the nature and scale of the alleged crimes, while giving priority to protecting witnesses and investigators. Should the Philippine government not allow this to proceed, a UN Commission of Inquiry could be formed to gather facts.
An investigation would look for the mid-level organizers and the individuals implementing policies or practices on the ground. But it would also seek out the leaders. In that context, it is impossible to ignore words publicly spoken by Duterte himself. The president has repeatedly called for mass killings, and promised to protect police from prosecution. He has even threatened to kill human rights activists. Even in the absence of known official orders, international law considers inducement to commit murder a basis to hold individuals criminally responsible for that crime.
It is similarly impossible to ignore Duterte’s reputed ties as mayor to the infamous Davao Death Squad. Investigators would likewise probe the possible roles of key administration officials such as Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.
The situation in the Philippines makes a purely internal solution unlikely, at least for now.
Human rights defenders, attorneys and journalists have attempted to respond to the crisis, but faced retaliation. The list of incidents in which political leaders who have criticized the administration’s drug policies have been targeted is long enough to raise questions about the motivation for the attacks.
After Senator Leila de Lima organized testimony in the Justice Committee from a confessed former member of the Davao Death Squad, Edgar Matobato, she was jailed based primarily on accounts from drug traffickers she’d helped incarcerate. Vice President Leni Robredo has faced the threat of impeachment since providing a video criticizing the killings for an event at the UN. The Supreme Court Chief Justice and the Ombudsman, both critics of the killings, are facing impeachments.
After Senator Risa Hontiveros arranged protective custody for witnesses to the delos Santos killing, a legislator accused her of kidnapping because they are minors, and administration prosecutors have treated the spurious argument with credence. Duterte has threatened to “destroy” Senator Antonio Trillanes, a critic of the killings who has accused the president as well as his son of additional crimes.
By contrast, an impeachment filing against the president was quickly dismissed by a committee of the House of Representatives, ostensibly for its reliance on news reports. Aguirre’s response to Matobato, and to similar testimony by retired officer Arturo Lascañas, was to seek their arrest. But Aguirre took no action against the president, whom they’d also implicated.
We call on the world to take decisive actions to stop the killings and encourage better policies.
A statement of concern by 39 countries at the Human Rights Council underlines the seriousness of this situation. So does the rejection or non-commitment by the Philippine government to many of the Council’s recommendations. The world should act with the urgency this suggests.
We therefore call on the UN, international donors – including the US, EU, Canada, western European states, Japan, and Australia – and other governments or organizations with ties to the Philippines, to bring their financial and diplomatic leverage to bear on this. At a minimum, donor states should condition most law enforcement assistance on upholding human rights norms.
We likewise call on world leaders attending the ASEAN Summit to unequivocally call for an end to the killings and for human rights to be respected. ASEAN itself should end its silence on this matter. Leaders should warn other countries against adopting similar tactics.
The international community should promote the right to health, by funding evidence-based alternatives to the drug war in the Philippines.
We finally urge the international community to fund Philippine human rights defenders, at a level matching the crisis. In September the House voted to defund the nation’s Commission on Human Rights – later reinstating funds, but at a lower level and with conditions. The future of rule of law in the Philippines may depend on the work of the CHR and its allies.
The world is at a crossroads.
The UN Charter, supreme among treaties, lists human rights among the few supreme obligations of states. But support for this global system of responsibilities and rights has become uncertain. At this uncertain time, lawlessness and extrajudicial violence must not become a model for more countries. When human rights are attacked, all are called on to act – by individual conscience, age-old moral principles, and the global agreements seeking peace and security for all. The time for action is now.
ENDORSER LIST IN PROGRESS – AS OF 11/5/17:
akzept e.V., Bundesverband für akzeptierende Drogenarbeit und humane Drogenpolitik (Germany)
A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing)
Asociación Costarricense para el Estudio e Intervención en Drogas (ACEID) ‐ Costa Rica
Belangenvereniging Druggebruikers MDHG, Amsterdam
BOOM!Health, providing Harm Reduction and other services in New York City (Bronx)
Brazilian Drug Policy Center – Psicotropicus
Broken No More
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
The Center for Harm Reduction Therapy (US – California)
The CHOW Project
Chicago Recovery Alliance
Coalition of Drug Users in Nepal (CDUN)
Correlation Network – European Network Social Inclusion & Health
Deutscher Hanfverband (DHV) ‐ German Cannabis Association
DC Cannabis Campaign, DCMJ.org (US)
Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i
Drug Policy and Harm Reduction Platform in Malawi
Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines
Empire State NORML (New York State Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)
FAAAT Foundation for Alternative Approaches to Addiction – Think & do tank (France, Spain)
Federación Andaluza Enlace (Spain)
Franciscan Action Network
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) (Philippines)
GRASP: Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing
Harm Reduction Coalition (US)
Health GAP (US)
Hep Free Hawaii
Housing Works (US)
Human Rights Defense Center (US)
Intercambios Puerto Rico
International Centre for Science in Drug Policy
International Network of People Who Use Drugs
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Mainline Foundation (Netherlands)
Middle East and North Africa Network of/for People who use Drugs
Moms United to End the War on drugs international campaign
mumsDU ‐‐ moms united and mandated to saving the lives of Drug Users (Canada)
National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery (US)
National Lawyers Guild, Drug Policy Committee
National Urban Survivors Union (US – California, North Carolina, Washington)
Pedro José Arenas García, Director del Observatorio de Cultivos y Cultivadores Declarados Ilícitos (OCCDI
Kevin Zeese, co‐director, Popular Resistance
Safe Streets Arts Foundation (US – Washington, DC)
St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, Inc. (Bronx, NY)
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Students for Sensible Drug Policy Australia
Supernova Women (US – Oakland, California)
Rajesh Didiya, Director, SURUWAT (Nepal)
UDK Consultancy (Malawi)
Uganda Harm Reduction Network
Union C (Nepal)
US Filipinos for Good Governance (US)
Women’s Coalition Against Cancer in Malawi
Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network
Vicente Sederberg LLC
Jesse Stout, Of Counsel, Greenbridge Corporate Counsel
Kayvan S.T. Khalatbari, Founding Partner, Denver Relief Consulting
Patt Denning, PhD., Director of Clinical Services & Training, The Center for Harm Reduction Therapy (San
Norm Stamper, Ph.D.
Seattle Chief of Police (Ret.)
Representative Roger Goodman
Chair, House Public Safety Committee
Washington State Legislature