Tens of thousands of people in the Philippines may have been killed in the war on drugs since mid-2016, amid “near impunity” for police and incitement to violence by top officials, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The drugs crackdown, launched by President Rodrigo Duterte after winning his election on a platform of crushing crime, has been marked by police orders and high-level rhetoric that may have been interpreted as “permission to kill,” it said.
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Police, who do not need search or arrest warrants to conduct house raids, systematically force suspects to make self-incriminating statements or risk facing lethal force, the UN human rights office said in a report.
There has been only one conviction, for the 2017 murder of Kian delos Santos, a 17-year-old Manila student, it said. Three police officers were convicted after CCTV footage led to public outrage, it said.
At least 73 children were killed in the drug war, the youngest being five months old, the report added.
“Despite credible allegations of widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs, there has been near impunity for such violations,” the report said.
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Police say their actions in the anti-drug campaign have been lawful and that deaths occur in shootouts with dealers resisting arrest.
But at least in 25 cases of “drug war” raids, it was found proof suggesting police were planting and found evidence. In some instances, guns allegedly used by slain suspects bore identical serial numbers.
“The pattern suggests planting of evidence by police officers and casts doubt on the self-defense narrative,implying that the victims were likely unarmed at the time of killing.”
The report said that some statements from the highest levels of government had “risen to the level of incitement to violence” and “vilification of dissent is being increasingly institutionalized”.
“The human rights situation in the Philippines is marked by an overarching focus on public order and national security, including countering terrorism and illegal drugs,” it said.
But this was “often at the expense of human rights, due process rights, the rule of law and accountability”.
Victims of Duterte’s war on drugs find solace in Philippines church
“The government has also increasingly filed criminal charges, including by using COVID-19 special powers laws, against social media users posting content critical of government policies and actions,” the report added.
It will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council later in June.
In a statement sent to Al Jazeera, the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines said the report “is a damning indictment” of the Duterte administration’s “non-compliance with principles, standards, instruments and conventions on human rights.”
Lawyers and activists raised the alarm this week over a new anti-terrorism bill pushed by Duterte, warning of draconian and arbitrary provisions that could be abused to target his detractors.
Most victims in the drug war are young poor urban males, the UN report said. Their relatives described “numerous obstacles in documenting cases and pursuing justice.”
“The most conservative figure, based on Government data, suggests that since July 2016, 8,663 people have been killed – with other estimates of up to triple that number,” it said.
The UN cited reports of widespread drug-related killings perpetrated by unidentified “vigilantes” and a Philippine government report in 2017 that referred to 16,355 “homicide cases under investigations” as accomplishments in the drugs war.
Human rights groups said that the death toll in Duterte’s drug war could be at least 27,000.
An alleged victim of Duterte’s drugs war is collected by the local funeral parlour after being gunned down by unidentified men in a street in Pasay city, south of Manila [File: Francis R. Malasig/EPA]
A 2016 police circular launching the campaign uses the terms “negation” and “neutralisation” of “drug personalities,” it said, calling for its repeal.
“Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” it said.
Government figures show that 223,780 “drug personalities” were arrested from mid-July 2016 until 2019, but unclear charges and irregularities in due process raise concerns that “many of these cases may amount to arbitrary detentions”.
At least 248 land and environmental rights activists, lawyers, journalists and trade unionists were killed between 2015 and 2019, the report said.
So-called red-tagging, or labelling people and groups as communists or terrorists, had become rife.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
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The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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