PH envoy defends anti-drug war from U.N. High Commissioner's criticism

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U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said 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."

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines' Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva defended on Wednesday President Rodrigo Duterte's ongoing war against drugs — from blistering criticism unleashed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

During his opening statement for the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, Hussein said that Duterte's "statements of scorn for international human rights law" display a "striking lack of understanding" of human rights institutions and "the principles which keep societies safe."

"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," he added.

During the second day of the session, Ambassador Cecilia Rebong explained that Duterte has never empowered police officers to "shoot to kill" any individual suspected of drug crimes, according to a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)

According to Rebong, Duterte said the police have the right to defend themselves when their lives are endangered and when drug suspects violently resist arrest.

She said that the administration's anti-illegal drug campaign was being waged "with a firm adherence to the rule of law, due process, and human rights principles."

Rebong added that Duterte has urged civil rights organizations to report any killings which are not in accordance with his pronouncements on the anti-illegal drug campaign.

"[P]olice authorities take seriously allegations of its officers' involvement in such activities, and follow established internal procedures for investigating and addressing such cases," she stressed.

According to the DFA, the Philippines stressed that the spike in the figures on the killings in the Philippines result not only from legitimate police operations, but also from killings carried out by vigilante elements, and drug syndicates undertaking a purge among their ranks. The statement added that the government is investigating these killings, and is committed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Hussein encourages the country to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. "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."