UN official urges Duterte to send invite on killings probe

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 13 2016 10:39 PM

A woman cradles the body of her husband who was killed on a street by a vigilante group, according to police, in a spate of drug related killings in Pasay City. Czar Dancel, Reuters/file

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has drawn flak from a United Nations body again.

In a speech during the the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, took exception to statements of Duterte regarding alleged extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

"The President of the Philippines's 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.

The UN official reminded Duterte that "fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security. Empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to 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," said Zeid, who is a Jordanian prince.

He urged Duterte to send an invitation to the United Nations rights body regarding extra-judicial, summary, and arbitrary executions in the Philippines. "My office 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."

Duterte has had a confrontational relationship with the United Nations, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as the United States for expressing concerns over his administration's human rights record in connection with his war on illegal drugs.

READ: Duterte skips ASEAN-UN meeting with Ban Ki-moon

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The Arroyo administration's own track record on human rights was the subject of a probe by then Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who made some recommendations and observations.

Alston was in the Philippines in 2007 before he issued a report the next year. In his report, Alston expressed concerns about killings in Davao City, where Duterte was mayor. 

"I visited the Philippines from 12 to 21 February 2007 and traveled to Manila, Baguio, and Davao and I spoke with a wide range of actors to clarify responsibility for these killings and to formulate recommendations to bring them to an end. I also looked at selected other issues of unlawful killing, including the use of a death squad in Davao City," he said.

Alston specifically called for an end to summary killings in Davao.

READ: Gov't urged: Re-open Davao Death Squad probe