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Top UN exec assails Du30 anew on human rights

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Top UN exec assails Du30 anew on human rights

/ 01:28 AM September 15, 2016
UN HIGH Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan speaks out against the President’s remarks against the United Nations as “displaying a striking lack of understanding” of human rights institutions and principles. AP

UN HIGH Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan speaks out against the President’s remarks against the United Nations as “displaying a striking lack of understanding” of human rights institutions and principles. AP

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights on Tuesday lashed out at President Duterte and several other leaders for opposing human rights institutions and investigations.

Speaking at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticized the acid-tongued Mr. Duterte for his scornful comments about the United Nations and its rapporteurs for their expressions of concern over human rights violations in his brutal war on drugs.

“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,” Al Hussein said.

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He pointed out that “fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security” and that “empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to be a suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice.”

“The people of the Philippines have a right to judicial institutions that are impartial, and operate under due process guarantees; and they have a right to a police force that serves justice,” he said.

“I strongly encourage the Philippines to extend an invitation to the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,” he added.

Scorn for UN

Mr. Duterte has rejected such suggestions, pouring scorn on the United Nations for what he holds as interference in his war on drugs.

He has called the United Nations “stupid” and “inutile” and at one point threatened to pull the Philippines out of the world body.

More than 3,000 people have been killed since Mr. Duterte took office on June 30 and immediately launched a take-no-prisoners war on illegal drugs, part of a campaign promise to kill tens of thousands of criminals to rid the Philippines of crime within six months of his presidency.

He urged police and armed civilians to shoot to kill drug suspects who would resist arrest, promising officers bounties and protection from prosecution and medals for civilians who would kill drug suspects resisting arrest in their communities.

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The UN special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnés Callamard, has said that such exhortations are extremely irresponsible and warned that Philippine government officials could be held accountable under international law for such killings.

The UN special rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Puras, has also said that the fight against illegal drugs must “respect the human rights of each person.”

PH response

In response to Al Hussein, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Cecilia Rebong said Mr. Duterte had never given shoot-to-kill orders to police in his war on drugs.

She said Mr. Duterte’s order to police was to defend themselves when their lives were in danger in operations against illegal drugs.

Rebong stressed that the campaign against illegal drugs had the “overwhelming support” of the Filipino people.

The war on drugs is “being waged under the leadership and direction of President Duterte, with a firm adherence to the rule of law, due process and human rights principles,” she said.

In Manila, Malacañang said on Wednesday that the President knew his law and respected human rights, and just did not want these rights to be used to allow the illegal drug trade to flourish in the Philippines.

“President Duterte is a respecter of human rights, but he has also been firm in saying that human rights cannot be used as an excuse to let the spread of drugs in the country run rampant,” said his spokesperson, Ernesto Abella.

Mr. Duterte is a lawyer and a former government prosecutor and thus knows the limits of the power and the authority of the presidency, Abella said. The President follows due process and the law, he added.

“In his inauguration, he said: ‘I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising,’” Abella said.

He pointed out that no formal charge of human rights violations has been brought against Mr. Duterte despite the accusations thrown at him. “[Extrajudicial killings] are not the policy of his administration,” he said.

PH statement

On Sept. 9, the Philippine mission to the United Nations submitted a statement to Al Hussein’s office stating the Duterte administration’s commitment to human rights is resolute and uncompromising, and appealing to the international community to respect the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“Being a state party to eight out of nine core international human rights conventions, the Philippines’ utmost respect on human rights is resolute and uncompromising,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) quoted Rebong as saying in the statement.

Fully aware

According to the DFA, Rebong said the Philippine government was fully aware that “killings outside legitimate police operations are considered criminal acts and are being investigated.”

She assured Al Hussein that the Philippine government will never tolerate extrajudicial killings, the DFA said.

Rebong conveyed to Al Hussein the Philippine government’s request for support in the campaign against illegal drugs, it said.

According to the Philippine National Police, 1,506 drug suspects have been killed in 17,992 police operations from July 1 to Sept. 14.

During the same period, 1,571 people have been killed by suspected vigilantes in cases the PNP calls “deaths under investigation.”

Only 303 cases have been filed involving these killings. The PNP said 190 suspects in these cases had been arrested and 113 remained at large.

The PNP has also arrested 16,891 drug users, while 659,868 others have turned themselves in and 52,862 alleged drug pushers have surrendered for fear of being killed.

In his opening statement in Geneva, Al Hussein said governments had accused human rights institutions of interfering in the affairs of sovereign nations.

“Are human rights exclusively a national issue? Governments have the responsibility to uphold their human rights obligations and to respect the standards. But the human rights of all people, in all countries, also require—unquestionably—our collective attention,” he said.

He said blocking international observers only raises the question, “What, precisely, are you hiding from us?”

Among the countries and areas mentioned by Al Hussein as refusing human rights investigations were Congo, Syria, Venezuela, Turkey, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Mozambique, Gambia, Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, China, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Dominican Republic, Burundi, United States, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Belarus, Eritrea, Israel and Yemen. With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, Estrella Torres and Vince F. Nonato

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