By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON D.C., United States — On Saturday, April 29, President Trump invited Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte to the White House during a “very friendly conversation” over the telephone. Duterte is nicknamed “the Punisher” and is accused of effectuating a drug war that has killed over 7,000. Duterte has also been accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects.
The White House released a statement that explained that Trump invited Duterte to the U.S. so the two leaders can discuss the “important of the United States-Philippines alliance.” The White House also commented that on the phone on Saturday, the two discussed the difficulty the Philippine government is facing in fighting “very hard” to rid the country of drugs.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus supported the invitation in a statement to reporters, commenting on the importance of U.S. outreach to other Asian nations in the ongoing nuclear threat issue posed by North Korea. Priebus acknowledged the issue of human rights, however argued that the North Korean problem takes precedence. Priebus noted that “[t]he 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.”
Trump administration officials are preparing for criticism from human rights groups. Two senior officials said they expect the State Department and National Security Council to raise internal objections, as the two departments were allegedly surprised by the invitation.
Duterte has been accused of encouraging civilians to kill anyone attempting to sell or buy drugs. In his final campaign speech before being elected, Duterte announced to the crowd “[f]orget the laws on human rights.” In December, Duterte released a statement alleging that Trump told him that he was going about the war on drugs in the Philippines “the right way.” A few weeks after that statement, the top human rights official within the United Nations called for Duterte to be investigated for murder.
In a statement, the White House declined to comment on details of Duterte’s possible trip, however stated that Trump is looking forward to his trip to the Philippines in November.
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