MANILA - An international human rights group on Thursday urged world leaders to use 2 regional summits this month to confront President Rodrigo Duterte about his crackdown on illegal drugs.
Heads of state are set to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in Vietnam this week, before many of them fly to Manila for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said world leaders should raise concern about Duterte's war on drugs, which has seen thousands dead, mostly from the urban poor.
"Surely someone from among the 20 world leaders at these summits can confront Duterte about his horrific and unprecedented 'drug war' killings," Brad Adams, HRW Asia Director, said in a statement.
"Widespread summary executions of drug suspects are not just illegal, they are ineffectual and cruel."
HRW also alleged that the campaign has "seriously harmed free speech and political space in the Philippines."
It said the President has repeatedly threatened human rights advocates critical of the campaign and warned that he would impose martial law nationwide, the group noted.
HRW issued the call in the wake of Duterte's statement Wednesday that he would not accept lecturing on human rights from world leaders, including United States President Donald Trump, at the APEC meet.
The Duterte administration has repeatedly defended the drug war, saying it does not sanction summary killings and that drug suspects slain by police had put up violent resistance.
The government has said over 3,800 were killed in legitimate anti-illegal drug operations. Human rights groups peg the number of deaths at over 13,000, but the administration has dismissed this figure as overblown.
Duterte recently dialed down his drug war, tapping the smaller Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the lead government body to enforce the campaign and relegating the police force to a supporting role.
This prompted the Philippine National Police to terminate its controversial house-to-house anti-drug campaign "Oplan Tokhang" (knock and plead).