Philippines: Duterte's drug war under fire at UN human rights council

The Philippines was facing its regular review at the Geneva-based UN human rights council.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Reuters

The Philippines have been put on notice by countries across the world over its deadly drug war on Monday, demanding an end to extrajudicial killings by President Rodrigo Duterte's security services.

The reported surge of deaths during the so-called anti-drug operations have been condemned by a number of diplomats from all continents. The drug war has claimed thousands of lives since Duterte took office last year in May..

The Philippines was facing its regular review at the Geneva-based UN human rights council, where each country's record is scrutinised every four years.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the Monday's session was especially "critical because of the sheer magnitude of the human rights calamity" since Duterte's inauguration. According to reports, the meeting began with Filipino Senator Alan Cayetano, a Duterte ally, denouncing what he called a campaign by rights advocates and the media to distort perceptions of the government's anti-drug effort.

"There is no new wave of killings in the Philippines," Cayetano told the council. He added that the government's enemies were using "a political tactic" of manipulating figures on extrajudicial killings to undermine the fight against a scourge that has poisoned Filipino society.

A video clip of Duterte was also showed by Cayetano where the Philippine president was seen vowing to put "drug lords ... below (the) ground". It is an unusual move at the UN council as the governments there do not typically publicise death threats by their heads of state.

Canada called on Manila to "end extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention, torture and harassment." Apart from it, delegations from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany and Ghana, among others, also made identical calls.

However, China offered support to Duterte and declared drugs as the "the public enemy of mankind." Earlier on Monday, a group of roughly 50 pro-Duterte supporters braved a light rain outside the UN. They hoisted placards proclaiming "Duterte is not a mass murderer."

Dexi Jimenez, a protest organiser said that foreign governments and UN officials are free to criticise the president. He added that they should understand that the war on drugs has gained (him) excellent ratings" in public opinion polls.

Duterte was elected largely on a law-and-order platform in which he promised to eradicate illegal drugs by killing tens of thousands of people. Since then, the police have reported killing 2,692 people in anti-drug operations.

They say unspecified parties have murdered another 1,847 people in drug-related incidents, while 5,691 other violent deaths are under investigation.

In February, the Amnesty International in a major report accused police of shooting defenceless people, paying assassins to murder addicts and stealing from those they killed. Earlier, Duterte has boasted of taking part in killings.