US President Donald Trump must convey to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte the deep sense of alarm about his apparent shirking of his duty to prosecute human rights violations, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Monday.
"So one hopes the message will be very clear and undiluted from the President of United States to the President of the Philippines," Zeid told a news briefing.
This, after White House defended Trump's decision to invite Duterte to Washington, saying his cooperation was needed to counter North Korea, even as the administration faced human rights criticism for its overture to Manila.
Trump invited Duterte to Washington Sunday, in what the White House said was a “very friendly” phone conversation with Duterte, who is accused by international human rights groups of supporting a campaign of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines.
“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what’s happening in North Korea,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s “This Week” during a weekend in which Trump sought to firm up support in Southeast Asia to help rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Priebus insisted the outreach to Duterte “doesn't mean that human rights don't matter, but what it does mean is that the issues facing us developing out of North Korea are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure we have our ducks in a row.”
The invitation for Duterte to visit the White House at an unspecified date appeared to be the latest example of the affinity Trump has shown for some foreign leaders with shaky human rights or autocratic reputations.
For instance, he expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential campaign, hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House and has had warm words for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who Trump is pressing to do more to rein in its ally and neighbor North Korea.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Stephanie Nebehay)