Shootouts are not the answer
We are extremely concerned at the rising death toll in shootouts by law enforcers in countrywide anti-narcotic drives. In the last nine days alone, at least 33 alleged drug peddlers have been killed in "gunfights" according to our reports. The details around these gunfights are hazy at best, and there are contradictory accounts by police and family members and neighbours of the deceased, who have made claims of plainclothes men picking up the accused.
While we appreciate the fact that the drug problem is being prioritised, we must say that shootouts are not the answer. Firstly, concerns of extrajudicial killings (as expressed by many rights activists) have begun to surface and the latest incidents of shootouts must be investigated thoroughly. Everyone is entitled to due process under the constitution regardless of the crime they're accused of. The long list of killings in shootouts shows that there is a trust deficit in the judicial process on the part of law enforcers.
Secondly, shootouts do nothing to get to the root causes. We must remember that with the death of alleged drug traders, law enforcers are losing a valuable source of intel which can help them nab the masterminds—the drug kingpins—who are calling the shots. Given the transnational nature of the drug business, cross-border cooperation among law enforcement agencies of the countries involved is needed in order to disrupt the supply chain.
Law enforcers ought to be given clear directives to conduct anti-narcotic drives and they must ensure that due process is followed. Furthermore, the fight against such organised crimes cannot be won without a viable long-term strategy that includes intelligence gathering and enhancing cooperation with law enforcement agencies outside our borders.