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Watchdog says ASEAN must stand vs. killings in Philippines

Associated Press logo Associated Press 26/04/2017

MANILA, Philippines — An international human rights watchdog is calling on Southeast Asian leaders to take a stand against the Philippines' war on drugs that has left thousands dead under President Rodrigo Duterte, the host of this week's regional summit.

Amnesty International said leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations must consider whether the killings amount to a serious breach of ASEAN's charter, particularly its pledge to human rights.

It said up to 9,000 people have been killed by police or unknown armed persons since July 2016. Officials said not all deaths being reported are drug-related while others were killed in legitimate police operations.

"As the death toll mounts, so does evidence of the Philippines authorities' role in the bloodshed," said Champa Patel, Amnesty's director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Patel said the Philippines' chairing the ASEAN summit "is a scandal, and should prompt the government to make independent and effective investigations into unlawful killings an immediate priority."

In an open letter to Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Amnesty International also called on authorities to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into all drug related killings, and to press criminal charges against suspects, regardless of rank or status.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said "the so-called extrajudicial killings are not state-sanction or state-sponsored." He said that police conducting legitimate operations are required to follow protocols and those who breach them are made to answer before the law.

Abella said that the Philippine Senate had conducted an independent investigation into the charges hurled against Duterte by a self-confessed assassin, and senators found no proof of state-sponsored killings.

On Monday, a Filipino lawyer presented documents to the International Criminal Court which he said contain evidence of Duterte's alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings.

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