Monday, Aug 15, 2022
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Encounter Killings: Death Squads Continue To Operate In Many Countries

South Asia has a particularly blood-soaked record of extrajudicial killings as State-sponsored hit squads are always at work, taking out political opponents and critics

Point blank: Lily Padila, whose husband was killed by Philippines police during the campaign against drug pushers. Photo: Getty Images

Shortly after assuming office as the President of the Philippines in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte pronounced his now-infamous vow to cleanse his country of the drug men­ace, the same promise he had made during his high-pitched campaign over the previous few months. “When I become president,” Duterte had said at a campaign meet, “I will order the police to find those people (involved in drugs) and kill them. The funeral parlours will be packed.” In September 2016, he made an even more chilling announcement, “Hitler massacred three million Jews...there are three million drug addicts…I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

And he kept his word. During his six-year term between 2016 to earlier this year, thousands of people were killed across the country in controversial encounters. Hundreds were gunned down by masked gunmen, part of a rogue force formed to wipe out all suspects. Besides suspected drug mafia and drug users—denied any chance of a fair trial—even ordinary civilians who had nothing to do with drugs were caught in the crossfire and killed. While his promise to clean up society was initially approved by the electorate, the human rights abuse by the state made people realise that unbridled use of force without the supervision of the judiciary could wreak havoc on the country. Duterte did not contest this year’s elections.

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