UN: Duterte lacks understanding of human rights institutions

Jodesz Gavilan

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UN: Duterte lacks understanding of human rights institutions

UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein 'strongly encourages' the Philippines to extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s contempt for international human rights law reflects “a lack of understanding” of human rights institutions, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Tuesday, September 13. 

“The President of the Philippines’ statements of scorn for international human rights law display a striking lack of understanding of our human rights institutions and the principles which keep societies safe,” Zeid said during the opening of the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Duterte administration’s intensified war on drugs has drawn criticism from international organizations, including the UN. 

Two UN rights experts said that Duterte’s decision to ask law enforcers and the public to kill suspected drug traffickers “amount to incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law.”

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), meanwhile, has expressed concern over the rise of killings of suspected drug personalities, stating that it is “not in line with the current provisions of international drug conventions.” 

Drug control approaches, it added, should be balanced, people-centered, evidence- and rights-based.

Duterte, however, has called these “stupid propositions,” and he has criticized the UN for interfering with the Philippines’ internal affairs.

‘Shoot to kill undermines justice’

Since July 1, Duterte’s first day in office, at least 3,426 have been killed in relation to the government’s anti-drug campaign: 1,491 in legitimate police operations and 1,935 in suspected vigilante killings. (IN NUMBERS: The Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’) 

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has repeatedly explained that those killed in operations fought back, forcing cops to defend themselves. The victims of unidentified killings are also being investigated, PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa said during a Senate hearing on August 18. 

Zeid, however, said that encouraging authorities to “shoot to kill” promotes a culture of injustice. 

“Fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security,” he explained. “Empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice.”

The law of the land should properly be in place and followed in pursuing a drug-free Philippines, Zeid said: “The people of the Philippines have a right to judicial institutions that are impartial, and operate under due process guarantees. They have a right to a police force that serves justice.”

Invite UN Special Rapporteur 

The rights chief said he would “strongly encourage” the Philippines to invite Agnes Callamard – the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions – to further investigate the current situation.  

Zeid said the UN is “ready to assist, including with respect to rule of law institutions and the prevention and treatment of drug use in accordance with international norms.”

Earlier, Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo dared the UN rights experts to “better come over and see for themselves the real situation.” Duterte also demanded to debate with Callamard. 

Malacañang, however, later clarified that Panelo’s challenge was not an invitation. Press Secretary Ernesto Abella said an investigation would be an “objectional interference” in “household affairs,” the Palace said. – Rappler.com 


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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.