Ex-U.N. rights head slams Duterte's anti-drug war as 'inhumane'

  • Louise Arbour, 2016 Tang Prize Laureate in Rule of Law
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Taipei, Sept. 24 (CNA) Louise Arbour, the Tang Prize winner for the rule of law, blasted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drug tactics as "inhumane" and "ineffective" on Saturday and urged the president to reverse his policy.

When asked her opinion of Duterte's war on drugs at a press conference in Taipei, Arbour, who is in Taiwan to receive the award, noted that she co-signed a public letter to the Philippine president earlier this month.

The letter called on the president "to reverse his current policy, which is not only inhumane, but has been proven completely ineffective in all places where this kind of repression has been put in place," said Arbour, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A former prosecutor, Duterte has been widely criticized by international human rights groups for his heavy-handed tactics in dealing with drugs and other crimes.

Reuters reported that at least 3,800 people have been killed since Duterte took office as president in June.

The repressive model of cracking down on drugs has proven to be "completely useless" in obtaining the goal of a drug-free world, said the 69-year-old Arbour.

"There are more drugs in circulation today that are more potent and cheaper than they were 50 years ago," the Canadian lawyer said. "So this pure prohibition and repression obviously is a policy failure and has to be completely revisited."

Arbour also condemned the extrajudicial executions carried out in the Philippines' war on drugs, saying that the killing of suspected drug users or drug dealers without due process of law is "one of the most severe violations of human rights."

Arbour is a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the International Commission Against the Death Penalty and has served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and for Rwanda (ICTR).

In 1998, Arbour became the first prosecutor to get a conviction of genocide in an international tribunal, when the ICTR convicted Jean-Paul Akayesu, a mayor in Rwanda, of genocide.

The following year, as the chief prosecutor for the ICTY, Arbour again made history by indicting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who became the first sitting head of state to be tried for war crimes by an international tribunal.

While serving as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2004 to 2008, Arbour continued to speak out against honor killings, human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, war crimes in Darfur and other injustices.

She has also provoked controversy by criticizing Israel's military policies in Lebanon and by criticizing the U.S-led war on terror for undermining the global ban on torture.

The Tang Prize is awarded to Arbour "for her enduring contributions to international criminal justice and the protection of human rights, to promoting peace, justice and security at home and abroad, and to working within the law to expand the frontiers of freedom for all," according to the Tang Prize citation.