UN Envoy in Philippines Says War on Drugs ‘Does Not Work’

The U.N. special envoy on extrajudicial executions Friday issued a veiled rebuke of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs, saying world leaders have recognized that such an approach does not work.


Agnes Callamard told a forum in Manila that badly thought out policies not only fail to address drug abuse and trafficking, they also compound the problems and “can foster a regime of impunity infecting the whole justice sector and reaching into whole societies, invigorating the rule of violence rather than law.”


She did not mention the Philippines by name.

Early critic of anti-drug campaign 

Callamard is an early critic of the Philippine president’s anti-drug drive, and has been challenged by Duterte to debate his war on drugs that has left thousands of suspected drug dealers and users dead since he took office in June. 


Human rights groups say 7,000 to 9,000 have been killed, but the government refutes that, releasing data this week showing nearly 4,600 people were killed in police operations and homicides found to be drug-related.


“In 2016, the general assembly of the world’s government recognized explicitly that the ‘war on drugs’ — be it community based, national or global — does not work,” Callamard said. 


She said that other factors exacerbate the problem, including poorly conceived policies, extrajudicial killings, deaths by criminal gangs, vigilante crimes, detention in rehabilitation centers without trial or evaluation and the breakdown of the rule of law.


She said U.N. member countries, in their joint commitment last year to counter the world drug problem, called instead for a multifaceted, scientific approach that promotes the dignity and human rights of individuals and communities.

No meeting with officials


Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella expressed disappointment that Callamard did not contact the government before her visit, saying “she has sent a clear signal that she is not interested in getting an objective perspective of issues that are the focus of her responsibility.”


He said the government sent a letter to Callamard in September inviting her to visit and meet with officials to get their perspective on the drug menace. Abella failed to mention that Duterte earlier rejected Callamard’s proposal to hold a private meeting and instead insisted on a public debate with her. 


Callamard refused to answer questions from media except to say that she was in the country in an unofficial capacity, solely to attend a two-day academic conference at the invitation of the University of the Philippines and human rights lawyers.


She invited “all parties, including the government, to participate fully and take stock of what is going to be debated.”

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