Activists decry Sri Lankan leader's praise for Duterte's drug war

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena waving as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks on after reviewing a guard of honour during a welcome ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on Wednesday.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena waving as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks on after reviewing a guard of honour during a welcome ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on Wednesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANILA • Human rights groups expressed alarm at Sri Lanka's leader yesterday for praising Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody war on drugs as an "example to the whole world".

Despite international condemnation of a crackdown that has killed thousands of Filipinos, visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told Mr Duterte during a banquet that he wanted to follow his footsteps to control the hazard.

Mr Carlos Conde, a Philippine researcher for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Mr Duterte's campaign was "a human rights calamity that no country in the world should even try to emulate".

"No 'drug war' that treated the drug problem purely from a crime perspective has ever succeeded," he said. "What they have wrought are untold suffering and the further destruction of the rule of law and the diminution of human rights."

The Philippine government has consistently refuted that and said the crackdown, which started in July 2016, was being administered lawfully. On Friday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said any allegations of state-sponsored killings were "pure hogwash".

Police say they have since killed at least 5,000 suspected drug dealers, although activists say the number could be far higher and they dispute official accounts that the killings were all in self-defence.

More than 200 people in Bangladesh have been killed by police in a similar campaign. International drug smugglers have increasingly turned to Sri Lanka as a transit hub in Asia, the authorities said.

 
 

Predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka voted in favour of a UN resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015, but Mr Sirisena said last year he wanted convicted traffickers caught arranging drug deals from jail to be executed.

Philippine human rights group iDefend said that if Mr Sirisena was serious about following Mr Duterte's lead, he should be ready to face scrutiny by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which has started a preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity by Mr Duterte.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2019, with the headline 'Activists decry Sri Lankan leader's praise for Duterte's drug war'. Print Edition | Subscribe