WATCH | Problematic solution: UN rapporteur on EJK in PH, says ‘ill-conceived’ war on drugs ‘does not work’

May 5, 2017 - 11:08 AM
Agnes Callamard, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial summary or arbitrary Executions, speaks with reporters in Bangkok February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Marshall

MANILA, Philippines – Is the Duterte administration waging a futile war against illegal drugs? Is it creating more serious problems with its supposed solution to the drug problem?

It apparently is because countries worldwide had already proved that strategies similar to the one being carried out now by the Philippines in addressing the global drug problem were fruitless, according to UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Agnes Callamard.

“In April 2016, the general assembly of the world’s governments recognized explicitly that the war on drugs be it community-based, national or global does not work,” Callamard said on Friday, May 5, during an event at the University in the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

The UN special rapporteur is now in the country for a two-day policy forum in UP dubbed, “Drug Issues, Different Perspectives” organized by human rights lawyers’ organization Free Legal Assistance Group-Anti-Death Penalty Task Force in collaboration with the UP-Diliman Office of the Chancellor and the UP College of Law’s Institute of Human Rights.

This is the first time that Callamard went to the Philippines since she was appointed UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings in August last year. But she said she was not on an official visit and her presence had nothing to do with the invitation that the Office of the President of the Philippines had extended to her last year.

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During the forum, Callamard said “many harms associated with drugs are not caused by drugs, but by the negative impacts of badly thought out drug policies.”

She said that according to world leaders, “there are better ways, evidence-based and scientific ways of combating drug abuse and trafficking.”


Drug war based on health, human rights

In April 2016, the 193-member UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) adopted a new framework on countering the global drug problem.

The framework recognizes that to address and counter the problem, appropriate emphasis should be placed on individuals, families, communities and society as a whole, with a view to promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all humanity.

UN Office on Drugs Executive Director Yury Fedotov earlier explained that the framework adopted by the UNGASS “are based on health and human rights, and promote the safety and security of all our societies.”

“Putting people first means looking to the future, and recognizing that drug policies must most of all protect the potential of young people and foster their healthy styles of life and safe development,” added Fedotov.

On Friday, Callamard said “what governments did not commit to last year was the war on drugs approach.”

“Quite to the contrary. They called for what amounts to a balanced, multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary approach, and they placed great emphasis on health, rights, and justice.”

“They did not suggest that death penalty was an appropriate or effective response to drugs trafficking, let alone drug use; Instead, they spoke about proportionate sentencing and alternative punishments.”

She said “badly thought out or ill-conceived drug policies,” similar to what the Philippines is implementing now, “not only fail to address drug dependency, drug trade, and drug-related criminality.”

“They also add more problems as has been documented from around the world. They add to or escalate problems such as killings, vigilante crimes, ill treatment, sexual violence, detention in drug and rehab centers without trials.”

Stop PH war on drugs

Last March, Callamard urged President Rodrigo Duterte to stop his war on drugs campaign and also said that the Philippines’ strategy might not be the solution to the illegal narcotics trade.

The UN special rapporteur said that instead of continuing the bloody campaign, Duterte must be open to listening to experts on the drug problem.

Also, Callamard said statements coming from the President “carry so much weight” and thus he could not just “call on anyone to kill anyone else.”

“You cannot deny people the right to life,” Callamard told Duterte.

She also said drug users should be considered as part of a community and not just mere drug addicts.

“They are just portrayed as supposedly drug pushers or drug addicts. They are not fathers, they are not sons, they are not people who had a dream. They are just described as drug addicts and therefore people who could be killed.”

Debate challenge

Late last year, Duterte challenged Callamard to engage him in a debate before the Philippine government allows her to investigate possible human rights violations amid the administration’s war on drugs.

Duterte said he wanted to refute in public Callamard’s claim and know where the UN rapporteur got her “garbage” about summary killings in the Philippines.

Callamard thumbed down Duterte’s challenge because she said it was not consistent with the code of conduct for special rapporteurs.

It was Duterte who invited Callamard last September to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country after he urged representatives from the UN, the European Union and the United States to come to the country and look into the drug-related killings in the Philippines.

Not on official visit

On Friday, Callamard said she was in the Philippines for the policy forum in UP.

“I am not here on an official visit. I am here in response to an invitation to participate to an academic conference,” she said.

The UN rapporteur said the government could check her activities while in Manila.

“They are entitled to monitor me, absolutely. I am here on the invitation of the university and of the task force, and I will participate to the discussion in that role. That’s the only contribution and work that I will be doing over the next two days,” she said.

Click and watch this video report by News5’s Naomi Dayrit: