Indonesian police defend award to Philippine police chief

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police on Thursday defended bestowing their highest honor on the Philippine police chief, who has been criticized for spearheading the war on drugs that has left thousands of suspects dead.

Ronald dela Rosa was among five neighboring police chiefs who were presented with the award by Indonesian police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian on Wednesday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the Indonesian government debased the rule of law by awarding dela Rosa its highest honor.

"That's a perverse assessment of a Philippine government official implicated in possible crimes against humanity for inciting and instigating killings linked to the government's 'war on drugs,'" said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

He cited data from reliable NGOs and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines that the crackdown on illegal drugs has killed more than 12,000 people since June 2016, with most victims, including a number of children, being urban slum dwellers.

Karnavian reportedly praised dela Rosa for his "rock star-like inspiration to the Indonesian national police and the Indonesian people on how to fight the war on drugs."

National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said the award was based on good relations and cooperation between the countries' police institutions and has nothing to do with human rights.

"We did not see his record," Wasisto told The Associated Press. "Whether he violated human rights or not is his own responsibility."

Human Rights Watch also urged Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to join calls for a U.N.-led international investigation into the drugs crackdown in the Philippines rather than honoring one of its chief architects.

Indonesia has extremely strict drug laws and convicted smugglers are often executed. Eighteen convicts, mostly foreigners, have been executed since Jokowi took office in October 2014 and declared its own war against drugs. Jokowi says illegal drugs kill an average of 50 Indonesian daily.

More than 150 people are currently on death row, including one-third foreigners, mostly for drug crimes.

Indonesian police and the National Narcotic Agency have so far fatally shot nearly 100 suspected drug dealers since January last year.

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