Philippine jails overcrowded since Duterte’s war on drugs, rights group says

NEW YORK, Aug. 4 (UPI) — Overcrowded Philippine jails prompted by a crackdown on drug dealers and users are causing a humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch said.

The May 10 election of President Rodrigo Duterte, who promised action against crime in the country, was the start of a government campaign against illegal drug sales and use. Since then, more than 700 people have been killed for their involvement with drugs, data from the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group revealed.

Police statistics indicate more than 125,000 surrendered voluntarily in the seven weeks since Duterte’s win, an estimated 10,000 on one day, July 21, in Pampanga province. Authorities say fear of police roundups and possible killings, as well as vigilante-style killings by unidentified groups, have motivated people to surrender.

Duterte was elected on a populist, anti-crime platform and has encouraged vigilante killings of suspects, and many drug users who are not dealers have been killed.

“While police are not detaining all of those who turned themselves in, the thousands who are now behind bars are pushing the capacity of jails and detention centers to the breaking point,’ a statement this week by the New York-based activist group said.

It noted many Philippine jails do not meet minimum United Nations-mandated standards for food, nutrition or sanitation, and that tuberculosis is widespread in jails most severely impacted by the surge in detentions.

Human Rights Watch called on Duterte to denounce unlawful killings and reinforce his support for the rule of law.

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