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Extrajudicial Killings are a violation of the right to life – which is enshrined most importantly in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right to life, to which everyone is entitled, “shall be protected by law” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life”. Moreover, exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked to justify any derogation from the right to life and security of the person.
So what happens when the right to life is violated, without any legal justification, on behalf of the authorities? For example, law enforcement officers commit this violation when, in carrying out their duties, they fail to abide by the obligation of using force only when strictly necessary, when less extreme means are insufficient, only to the extent required for the performance of their duty and in a manner that is proportional and minimizes damage and injury.

In these cases we often talk of political killings, which are defined at least by three aspects:

1 – they take place at the order, complicity or acquiescence of the authorities
2 – they violate national and/or international laws prohibiting murder
3 – they are deliberate, not the outcome of an accident or an act of self-defence

We know the past is filled with the bodies of victims of extrajudicial killings, but unfortunately the present is too.
In the next posts we will illustrate the example of Chile, as one from a recent past, and that of the Philippines, where an alarming situation of human rights violations has been at the order of the day.

The so-called “first 9/11” in 1973 represents one of the most brutal coups d’état of the Cold War period, which brought Chile in the hands of General Augusto Pinochet.
As soon as he seized power, Pinochet immediately ruled with an iron fist, ordering purges, tortures and executions of political opponents (i.e. supporters of Salvador Allende, the previous President, who died in the bombing of the presidential palace – La Moneda – on the day of the coup).
What is now known as the “Stadium Massacre” represented some of the darkest hours of this period: the national stadium in Santiago was turned into a detention centre, with dozens being tortured and killed.

Among them was the popular songwriter Victor Jara.
An idealist, Jara grew up in a poor environment and music became his weapon to go out in the world and powerfully express his beliefs: the need for change in a society he perceived as fundamentally unjust.
While some of his texts referenced more explicitly the political ideals and figures that inspired him (e.g. “El Derecho de vivir en paz” – the right to live in peace), Jara sang the stories of ordinary people, sent messages of peace and dreamed of a more equal society, calling for collective engagement, in a bid to liberate the oppressed and the poor.
The lyrics we think best express Jara’s mission are those of the song “Manifiesto”. After his tragic killing, Jara became a people’s martyr and is now one of the most important symbols of artistic freedom and protest in Chile. His story and music have inspired many.

Find out more:

→ Watch the @netflix documentary on the quest for justice led by Joan – Jara’s wife – to shed light on Jara’s torture and murder.
→ Watch “Santiago, Italia” by Italian filmmaker @nanni.moretti to find out more about the day that changed Chile’s history and hear the testimonies of those Pinochet opponents who found refuge at the Italian embassy and managed to escape
→ Watch the docu-film “El Color del Camaleon” by @andreslubbert
→ For French speakers: read the comic book “Victor Jara la voix du peuple” created by maxenceemery and Josephine Onteniente for @amnesty

In June 2020 a report of the @ohchr_asia presented a drastic human rights situation in the Philippines, citing hundreds of documented extralegal killings. In Dec 2020, the @internationalcriminalcourt declared that their preliminary investigation showed these violations amounted to a reasonable basis for evidence of crimes against humanity in the country under President Duterte’s rule. But these allegations do not seem to cause any tribulations in his governing strategy nor popularity.

Since coming to power in July 2016, President Duterte identified “drug personalities” as the main target of his administration, vowing to kill thousands while promising to “forget about human rights laws”. The Philippine National Police reports that some 8000 people have been killed in relation to alleged involvements in the illegal drug trade.
This unforgiving “War on Drugs” has inspired visual artist and photographer @CarloGabuco to document the widespread violence and the effects it has on the relatives of the victims in his “Less than Human” exhibition.
Through his vivid shots, Gabuco reflects upon the rhetoric that Duterte has used to dehumanise the targets: not humans, but criminals, not fathers or brothers but addicts, idiots, parasites, undeserving of life. Such language has been effectively used by the President and the police to deprive the targeted people of their dignity, distancing them from an accepted definition of an “actual” human being and pushing to their perception as less than human – a classic war and genocide technique used to incite and legitimize the neutralisation of the enemy.
Duterte has certainly built successfully on his approval rates as a “man of the people”, and managed to do so by addressing actual problems close to the people, e.g. criminality and corruption, by ultimately condoning and promoting state violence.

Wanna know more?

→ Watch the @frontlinepbs 2019 documentary “On the President’s Orders”, directed by award-winning directors James Jones and @OlivierSarbil
→ Watch @LaurenGreenfield’s “The Kingmaker” to know more about Philippine recent history through the story of former First Lady Imelda Marcos