The findings were published in a report from Amnesty international, which claims that around 6,600 people, most accused of petty drug crimes, have been killed in the Phillipines as part of the police’s ‘war on drugs’.
The killings are largely thought to be ‘extra-judicial executions’ where a person is killed by an authority without any judicial process taking place.
Such alleged executions are just one of a string of violations to have occurred under President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.
Duterte’s drug war
Duterte’s time in charge so far has been dominated by his government’s relentless battling of drug crime, which has seen thousands die, with even drug addicts being targeted to be killed.
In 2016, Duterte was quoted at a press conference saying: “There are three million drug addicts (in the Phillipines), I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
The killings have mainly been carried out by the police in the Phillipines, who have previously been urged to carry out these executions by President Duterte.
Amnesty interviewed 58 people who were a witness to a killing, the family of a victim or a local official and examined 20 cases involving killings, 18 by police and two by unknown assailants and based on the evidence by witnesses, at least half of these incidents appeared to be extrajudicial killings.
The report details that a trend was identified, where the majority of victims were found to be from the poorest backgrounds and despite this, many were labelled as ‘big time’ drug operators, despite struggling to feed their loved ones at home, according to family members.
One woman, whose husband was shot dead by police in 2018 said: “How come big-time? My husband? He needs to (work) overtime to support me and my children? I don’t understand, only the poor they want to kill.”
Victims have also been found to be on a ‘drug watch list’, which are lists submitted by local authorities to the police of people allegedly involved, or previously involved with drugs.
These lists, described by Amnesty international as ‘unreliable’ and ‘illegitimate’ are central to the police’s operations and they help police decide who to target for arrest or even to kill.
Every police operation documented by Amnesty international found that police attempted to justify the killings of victims, by claiming that they fought back, meaning that police were required to use deadly force.
This is known as a ‘buy-bust’ narrative, however, the charity organization claim there is no credibility to these claims with a forensic expert calling the police’s reports a ‘script’.
Amnesty international have called on the UN to open an investigation into the numerous human rights violations and potential crimes against humanity committed as part of Duterte’s government’s ‘war on drugs’.
The Phillipino government have since denied allowing any extra-judicial executions to take place.