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US pullout: Duterte won’t follow suit

The Philippines will not follow the lead of the United States in withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday.

“We’re not following suit... The President has no reaction on what the Americans decided to do. The President is very careful never to comment on sovereign decision in the same way that he does not want other states commenting on domestic sovereign decisions. So we leave it at that,” Roque said.

“The latest decision of the US reflects a sentiment that the President himself has articulated and apparently we are not alone in this perception that there is bias amongst human rights groups,” the Palace official added.

In March, President Rodrigo Duterte slammed UN Human Rights Council head Zeid Al Hussein after the latter advised him to undergo “psychiatric evaluation” for attacking UN envoys and special rapporteurs.

Zeid said Manila’s actions against UN officials “make one believe that the president of the Philippines needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation.”

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, has also become a particular target of the President over her criticism of his campaign to stamp out illegal drugs.

Duterte retaliated by calling Zeid a “turtle” and a “son of a whore” who has “a big head but no grey matter between your ears.”

On Tuesday, Washington withdrew from the UN council as it condemned the “hypocrisy” of its members and its alleged “unrelenting bias” against Israel.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced the decision alongside President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Both insisted the United States would remain a leading champion of human rights but for many, the decision will reflect Trump’s general hostility to the world body and to multilateral diplomacy in general.

The announcement came after top UN human rights official criticized Washington for separating migrant children from their parents who are seeking asylum after crossing into the country from Mexico.

But Haley and Pompeo stressed the decision had been made after a long year of efforts to shame the council into reform and to remove member states that themselves commit abuses.

“These reforms were needed in order to make the council a serious advocate for human rights,” Haley said.

“For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias. Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley added.

The Geneva-based body was established in 2006 to promote and protect human rights worldwide, but its pronouncements and reports have often clashed with US priorities. 

In particular, the council’s focus on Israeli behavior towards Palestinians in the territory it occupies on the West Bank and in Gaza has infuriated Washington. With AFP

Topics: Philippines , United States , United Nations Human Rights Council , Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque , President Rodrigo Duterte
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