Manila, Philippines — Rights group Amnesty International called on the Philippine government to put an end to the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, who have been linked by high-ranking officials to drug syndicates.
In a statement, the London-based rights watchdog also demanded the government to retract its statements that accused rights organizations of being in cahoots with drug lords to discredit the administration.
“The allegations are the latest dangerous attempt by the government to target human rights defenders and delegitimize their work, instead of ensuring accountability for widespread and systematic human rights violations in the war on drugs,” Amnesty said.
The organization believes that the purpose of these accusations is to intimidate human rights defenders.
“If on top of official statements, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police have embarked on investigations against peaceful human rights defenders, this marks a new low which further undermines the credibility and international reputation of the Philippines,” it said.
Several rights groups warned that the “baseless” and “irresponsible” statements of senior government officials put the lives of human rights activists at risk.
Last week, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, echoing Foreign Affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, said the administration is not discounting the possibility that drug lords are using human rights group to criticize the supposed strides of the government’s war on drugs.
The latest attack by the government on human rights defenders came weeks after the announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte that the country is withdrawing from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.