PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric supporting torture and extrajudicial killings is bad for international law, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned on Tuesday.
In a speech before the Law Society in London, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Duterte and Trump’s disregard for human rights, which he described as “breaking long-held taboos,” was dangerous “to the entire system of international law.”
“The president of the Philippines has spoken openly about extra-judicial killings. And the president of the United States of America has said that torture could be necessary in certain circumstances. There is no longer any pretense. They are breaking long-held taboos,” Zeid said.
“If other leaders start to follow the same rhetorical course, undermining Convention with their words, the practice of torture is likely to broaden and that would be fatal. The Convention would be scuttled and a central load-bearing pillar of international law removed.”
Zeid made his statement even as Human Rights Watch said Duterte had unleashed a human rights calamity on the Philippines in his first year in office.
The government’s murderous “war on drugs,” the drug-related overcrowding of jails, and the harassment and prosecution of drug war critics had caused a steep decline in respect for basic rights since Duterte’s inauguration on June 30, 2016, the group said.
Security forces and “unidentified gunmen” had killed at least 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers since July 1, including 3,116 killings by the police, according to government data.
But Human Rights Watch said the Duterte administration had rejected all domestic and international calls for accountability for those abuses, and instead had denied any government responsibility for the thousands of drug war deaths.
“President Duterte took office promising to protect human rights, but has instead spent his first year in office as a boisterous instigator for an unlawful killing campaign,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
“Duterte has supported and incited ‘drug war’ killings while retaliating against those fearless enough to challenge his assault on human rights.”
In Manila, an official said Zeid should visit the Philippines and verify whether President Duterte was condoning torture and extrajudicial killings.
“It’s a democracy. They can say whatever they want to say,” Andanar said in a news forum.
I would advise him to go to the Philippines and see for himself.”
Andanar’s dare compares with the stance taken against Zeid’s his Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial and Summary Killings, Agnes Callamard, after the Duterte administration placed certain conditions if she wanted to investigate in the Philippines.
Last May, Callamard took a controversial “academic visit” to the Philippines, during which she expressed her willingness to undertake an official visit to formally investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.
The United Nations has voiced its concerns over the administration’s bloody drug war. After Duterte won the presidency, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Duterte’s bloody war on drugs and his comments justifying the murder of some journalists.
UN special rapporteurs Callamard and Dainius Puras had called on the Philippine government to stop the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country, but that made Duterte threaten to “separate from the United Nations.”
The Duterte administration has repeatedly denied the accusations and blamed the Commission on Human Rights and Duterte’s critics for giving the world the impression that the unexplained killings were state-sponsored.