“Son of a b****, if your name is there, you have a problem; I will really kill you,” said the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte early this year. He has made public a list of what he claims are thousands of narco-politicians and has warned mayors involved in drug trade to either resign or die. Over 8000 alleged drug users and dealers have been killed in the war on drugs since Duterte took office in June 2016. Dutertes anti-drug campaign known as Operation Double Barrel has allegedly been a spree of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users in Manila and other cities.
Human Rights Watchs (HRW) investigations into various incidents have revealed police involvement in extrajudicial executions. Witnesses in HRW investigations have said that armed assailants in civilian clothes with their faces covered would bang on doors and barge into rooms, but would not identify themselves or show warrants. Family members have reported hearing beatings and their loved ones begging for their lives. The shooting could happen instantly, behind closed doors or on the street; or the gunmen might take the suspect away, where minutes later shots would be heard and local residents would find the body; or the body would be dumped elsewhere later, sometimes with hands tied or the head wrapped in plastic. No evidence so far, however, shows that Duterte has planned or ordered specific extrajudicial killings. But the Philippines Presidents repeated calls for killings as part of his anti-drug campaign could prompt law enforcement to commit murder.
Although the White House has consistently condemned the allegedly extrajudicial killings in the name of war on drugs, the U.S. appears somewhat reluctant to take stronger actions for fear of jeopardizing geo-strategic priorities in the region.
The alleged extrajudicial killing of thousands of suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines and Dutertes repeated death threats against drug dealers and users offer several legal grounds for which he and his top subordinates could be incriminated in the Philippines or by a court abroad. Dutertes statements instigating the general population against suspected drug users could also incite violence in the country. The killing spree is also likely to have adverse effects on public health. Punitive drug enforcement can lead to drug users going underground, choosing not to avail critical health services. This can trigger the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C among people who have used drugs and may discourage people with drug dependence from seeking effective treatment.
In a new report published Monday, a rights group has indicated that Boko Haram has used kidnapped women and girls on the front lines of its insurgency. The new report comes as news emerged that the militant group is suspected of kidnapping dozens of girls and boys.
Despite Nigerian government claims of a truce with the militant group, on Monday reports emerged that suspected Boko Haram militants have kidnapped about thirty adolescents in the northeastern region of the country. Local sources have reported that the suspected militants kidnapped boys aged 13 and over and several girls aged 11 and over. According to a local official, at least seventeen people were killed when the village of Mafa, in Borno State, came under attack on Thursday. Nigerian authorities however are blaming the attack on local bandits. The attack on Mafa, which is located 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the state capital Maiduguri, is the latest in a series of assaults carried out by suspected Boko Haram militants. Last week, at least 40 women and girls were seized in neighbouring Adamawa state.
Both kidnappings, along with continued violence in northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon, have caused doubts over government claims of a ceasefire agreement and deal for the release of 219 schoolgirls held captive since May. Boko Haram has yet to confirm that a ceasefire agreement has been reached.
According to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday, the militant group has kidnapped more than 500 women and girls since its insurgency began in 2009, adding that they use the girls and women on the front lines of combat.
The report came to the conclusion after officials outlined testimony from dozens of former hostages who documented the physical and psychological abuses they went through while being held captive. In total, 30 women and girls were interviewed between April 2013 and April 2014, including 12 of the 57 girls who fled shortly after militants raided a school in Chibok, Borno state. The women and girls, who were held from between two days and three months, were either kidnapped from their homes and villages or while working on the land, fetching water or at school. They all described being held in eight different camps believed to be located in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno state and in the Gwoza hills, which separate Nigeria from Cameroon. They described seeing other women and children in the camps, some of them infants while others as old as 65, however they were unable to indicate whether they had also been kidnapped.
While most of the women were made to cook, clean and perform household chores, with some forced to carry stolen goods seized by the insurgents after attacks, others were forced to fight alongside the militants. In one particular testimony, a 19-year-old woman indicated that she was forced to participate in Boko Haram attacks while being held hostage in militant camps for three months in 2013. According to the woman, she “…was told to hold the bullets and lie in the grass while they fought. They came to me for extra bullets as the fight continued during the day.” While a wave of attacks carried out by female suicide bombers across northeastern Nigeria earlier this year prompted speculation that Boko Haram may be changing tactics and using abducted women to carry out deadly attacks, there has been no evidence to prove whether the attackers were kidnap victims who were coerced or volunteers. The report further disclosed that while Boko Haram appears to pick victims arbitrarily, Christians and students were particularly targeted.
Additionally the newly released report discloses that there have been serious failings in the manner in which Nigerian authorities conducted their investigations in the wake of the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok six months ago. The report includes detailed testimonies of several girls who managed to escape captivity, with HRW adding that the police have shown minimal interest in documenting their evidence, and have treated the case as a “low level crime.” According to the HRW’s Africa Director, Daniel Bekele, little is available to help those girls and women who have survived long periods of captivity, adding that survivors have not received adequate support, including mental health and medical after-care upon their release. He further disclosed that while funds have been set up for the Chibok escapees, little support has been provided to other victims.
Officials in Mali have announced that Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is the new leader, confirming that the ex-Prime Minister had won a landslide victory.
Figures for Sunday’s second round of voting were announced on live television by the Interior Minister, showing that Mr. Keita had won an overwhelming 77.6 percent of the vote, with his rival Soumalia Cisse gaining 22.4 percent. According to Interior Minister Sinko Coulibaly, the turnout for the presidential elections was recorded at 45.8 percent, while just 93,000 ballots were spoiled, compared with 400,000 in the first round. Former Finance Minister Cisse had already conceded the run-off vote to Mr. Keta after it became apparent on Monday morning that victory was beyond his grasp. The 68-year-old will now oversee more than US $4 billion (£2.6 billion) in foreign aid promised to rebuild the country after a turbulent eighteen months. The new government which he will lead will also be obliged to open peace talks with the separatist Tuareg rebels within two months following a ceasefire that enabled voting to take place in the northern regions of the country. Cementing national reconciliation will likely be a challenge for the newly formed government as many in the southern regions of the country continue to be hostile towards funneling more of Mali’s already scarce resources to a region they see as being responsible for the country’s plight. In turn, there is a continued unease between a number of ethnic groups, not only between the north and south, but also within the north itself.
While these elections are expected to provide the conflict-scarred nation a fresh start, Mr. Keita’s regime begins already mired in controversy after it emerged on Wednesday that Captain Amadou Sanogo, who led a group of fellow mid-level officers to overthrow then-president Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22 of last year, had been promoted. Just two days after Ibrahim Boubacar Keita emerged as Mali’s president-elect, a defence ministry spokesman confirmed that “today, the cabinet approved the nomination of Captain Amadou Sanogo for the grade of Lieutenant-General.” Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described Sanogo’s elevation from captain to the rank of lieutenant-general as “outrageous,” further adding that “Sanogo and forces loyal to him have been implicated in extremely serious abuses, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against journalists and torture.” Most of these crimes were committed during 2012 in the months after the March coup d’etat. The HRW also noted that “instead of being rewarded with this promotion, Sanogo should have been investigated for his alleged involvement in these acts.”