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Trump invites authoritarian leader responsible for bloody drug war to the White House

Trump shows little concern for the potential human rights abuses.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte CREDIT: AP Photo
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte CREDIT: AP Photo

President Trump has extended an offer to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines and the architect of a bloody war on drugs that has killed thousands of people, to join him at the White House.

Trump invited Duterte to the White House after the two world leaders had “a very friendly conversation” on the phone, according to a press statement released late Saturday. The president also praised the Philippines for “fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”

Nearly 9,000 people have been killed since Duterte launched his crusade against drugs upon taking office last summer. Many of these deaths result from vigilantes taking matters into their own hands to track down people associated with the drug trade. But recent Reuters reporting revealed that many of these vigilante killings are actually committed by police officers in disguise; Duterte’s police force, the report suggested, knows they will be paid “bounties” for killing citizens who are suspected of using drugs.

The international human rights community has sharply criticized Duterte for waging a war against his own citizens, and has called for independent investigations into allegations that Duterte is directly ordering killings through state-sanctioned death squads. After the United Nations condemned Duterte’s assault on human rights, Duterte fired back by calling the human rights experts “stupid” and threatening to withdraw from the U.N.

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Just last week, a Filipino lawyer filed a lawsuit asking the International Criminal Court to prosecute Duterte for crimes against humanity.

Lawyer Jude Sabio holds a 77-page file outside the International Criminal Court in The Hague. CREDIT: AP Photo
Lawyer Jude Sabio holds a 77-page file outside the International Criminal Court in The Hague. CREDIT: AP Photo

None of this has stopped Trump from praising Duterte’s hardline approach to cracking down on drugs. On the campaign trail, Trump had another friendly call with the Philippines president during which Trump wished him “success” in his “campaign against the drug problem.”

Not everyone in the Trump administration has turned a blind eye to the bloody situation in the Philippines. Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, has previously acknowledged publicly that Philippines drug war killings may be human rights violations.