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Duterte needs a ‘psychiatric examination’, UN rights chief says

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's slurs against UN human rights activists suggest he needs to see a psychiatrist, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told a news conference.

Key points:

  • The Philippines wants more than 600 alleged communist guerrillas declared "terrorists"
  • A Government petition filed in court says the rebels are "using acts of terror" to sow fear and panic to overthrow them
  • The Government would be able to monitor groups and individuals more closely by declaring them "terrorists"

"These attacks cannot go unanswered, the UN Human Rights Council must take a position," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said, after Duterte's government sought to get a UN investigator, a former Philippine lawmaker and four former Catholic priests declared as "terrorists".

"He needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination.

"This kind of comment is unacceptable, unacceptable."

The UN investigator, former lawmaker and four former priests are among more than 600 alleged communist guerrillas the Philippines wants declared "terrorists", according to a Government petition filed in court.

The Department of Justice last month said it wanted a Manila court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), "terrorist" bodies, but made no mention of individuals it would also target.

The petition, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, suggested Mr Duterte was following through on his threats to destroy a movement he now regards as duplicitous.

Since taking office in July 2016, Mr Duterte freed some communist leaders and put leftists in his cabinet, to show his commitment to finding a permanent solution to a five-decade conflict.

But he abandoned the process in November, after what he called repeated attacks by the NPA during talks.

The petition said the rebels were "using acts of terror" to sow fear and panic to overthrow the Government.

Mr Duterte has been regularly venting his fury at the Maoists and considers them as much of a security threat as the domestic Islamist militant groups that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

The petition is 'a virtual hit list'

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein talks to reporters in Jakarta in front of UN flag

By declaring groups and individuals terrorists, the Government would be able to monitor them more closely, track finances and curb access to resources, among other measures.

But Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher with the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the petition was "a virtual hit list".

"There's a long history in the Philippines of the state security forces and pro-government militias assassinating people labelled as NPA members or supporters," he said in a statement.

The Government petition included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, appointed in 2014 as UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, who was listed as a senior member of the Maoist rebel group.

Ms Tauli-Corpuz denounced the Government, calling the complaint "baseless, malicious and irresponsible".

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein defended the independence, impartiality and expertise of special rapporteurs in the face of smear and hate campaigns, some involving incitement to violence.

"Instead of attacking the messenger, states and other stakeholders should engage and address the human rights concerns raised by mandate-holders," he said in Geneva.

Duterte's witch hunt

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during Change of Command ceremonies.

Two other UN special rapporteurs, Michel Forst and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, expressed "grave concern" about Ms Tauli-Corpuz being on the list, and said she was being punished by Mr Duterte for speaking against some of his policies.

Also on the list were four former Catholic priests and former congressman Satur Ocampo, who said he would challenge any "terrorist" label.

The petition included 18 top leaders of the CPP, including founder Jose Maria Sison and peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, both based in the Netherlands for three decades.

There was no basis for the charge of terrorism, said Mr Sison, who was a mentor of Mr Duterte when he was at university, although the two are now bitter rivals.

"Duterte is engaged in a wild anti-communist witch hunt under the guise of anti-terrorism," he said.

"Duterte is truly the No.1 terrorist in the Philippines."

Mr Duterte's spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Reuters

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