Philippine police may have committed crimes against humanity by killing thousands of alleged drug offenders or paying others to murder as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. An Amnesty report, which followed an in-depth investigation into the drug war, also outlined what it said were other widespread police crimes aside from extrajudicial killings that mainly targeted the poor. “Acting on orders from the very top, policemen and unknown killers have been targeting anybody remotely suspected of using of selling drugs,” Rawya Rageh, a senior crisis adviser for Amnesty, told AFP. “Our investigation shows that this wave of extrajudicial killings has been widespread, deliberate and systematic, and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity.”
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Among a litany of alleged crimes, Amnesty accused police of shooting dead defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they killed or the victims’ relatives. It also said police were being paid by their superiors to kill, and documented victims as young as eight years old. “The police are behaving like the criminal underworld that they are supposed to be enforcing the law against,” the report said.
Duterte won presidential elections last year after promising during the campaign to eradicate drugs in society within six months by killing tens of thousands of people. On one occasion Duterte vowed that 100,000 people would be killed and so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish there would grow fat from feeding on them.
Duterte launched his crackdown immediately upon taking office seven months ago. Since then, police have reported killing 2,555 people while nearly 4,000 others have died in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures.
As president, Duterte has repeatedly urged police to kill drug users as well as traffickers. Duterte said in December he had personally killed people when he was mayor of a southern city to set an example for police. Three months earlier he said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts, and likened his campaign to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s efforts to exterminate Jews in Europe.
The Amnesty report said Duterte had incited the police to carry out a murderous war on the poor, and warned that the International Criminal Court would need to start investigating unless Philippine authorities did not stop it soon.