On eve of ASEAN summit, more than 270 groups, individuals renew calls for UN-led probe of drug war killings

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Funeral workers remove the masking tape wrapped around the head and wrists of a man police said was a victim of a drug-related execution. (Reuters file)

MANILA, Philippines — Ahead of the Philippines’ hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, more than 270 nongovernment organizations and individuals renewed calls for a United Nations-led investigation into the thousands of deaths associated with President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

The statement is posted online and is still open for signatories until Saturday, November 11, when it is scheduled to be sent to the UN, heads of state and other officials of the country’s major foreign aid donors, particularly the United States, and of ASEAN.

It was coordinated by the Washington-DC based organization StoptheDrugWar.org and “organized by a coalition including the leading human rights organizations in the Philippines, Filipino-American advocacy groups, drug policy reform, recovery, (and) HIV/AIDS groups,” among others.

The statement was made public after Duterte again indicated he would book no criticism of his war on drugs during the ASEAN and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summits, including saying he would tell U.S. President Donald Trump to “lay off” human rights.

“We call for a process of accountability, starting with a UN-led investigation,” the statement said. “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.”

More than 40 NGOs from ASEAN member-states, other parts of Asia and regional networks signed the statement.

Among the Philippine signatories are the Free Legal Assistance Group, Action for Health Initiatives Inc. and the ASEAN Youth Forum.

The statement notes that, while official Philippine government figures show “over 3,900 people have been killed in anti-drug operations, with nearly 2,300 more drug-related murders and thousands still ‘unexplained’,” since June last yer 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.”

“Appearance suggests there may be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killing,” it adds.

Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson for In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement or iDEFEND, accused Duterte having “defined a particular section of Philippine society as inhuman & worthy of elimination — namely the poor.”

“Instead of caring for these people and addressing the root cause of their problems, this present leadership has chosen to assault and further brutalize them,” Carlos said.

Ago Pedalizo of the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance said Duterte’s “reprehensible public statements has instigated unabated extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug suspects by police and vigilante elements as part of his war on drugs.”

BELOW IS THE FULL TEXT OF THE STATEMENT WITH THE SIGNATORIES THUS FAR: