Duterte Considers Cutting Iceland Ties

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is "seriously considering" cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland, which spearheaded a resolution that asked the U.N.'s top human rights body to look into the thousands of deaths of suspects under his anti-drug crackdown.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters late Monday that the Iceland-initiated resolution, which was adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council in a vote last week in Geneva, showed "how the Western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people from the scourge of prohibited drugs."

Duterte told Panelo that he "is seriously considering cutting diplomatic relations with Iceland," Panelo said, adding that the resolution was "grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan."

Human rights groups, however, have lauded the resolution as crucial to helping end the drug killings and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Duterte's threat is the latest show of his disdain for critics of the deadly campaign against illegal drugs that he launched as his centerpiece project after taking office in June 2016. He withdrew the Philippines from the International Criminal Court, a move that took effect in March, after its prosecutor began examining complaints over the killings.

About 6,600 people, most of them accused of petty drug crimes, have been killed in the crackdown, based on police records. But nongovernment groups claim a much higher death toll, including many suspects killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen who human rights groups suspect were deployed and financed by police.

Duterte and the police have denied authorizing extrajudicial killings.

The volatile president, however, has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death in televised speeches and encouraged law enforcers to shoot suspects who fight back. He has warned that the crackdown will be more dangerous for suspects in the final three years of his six-year term.

The U.N. Human Rights Council voted 18-14 with 15 abstentions Thursday to approve the Iceland-initiated resolution, which called on the Philippine government to take all steps to prevent extrajudicial killings and asked the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a comprehensive report on the Philippines.

The resolution called for Philippine government cooperation, "including by facilitating country visits and preventing and refraining from all acts of intimidation or retaliation."

Nicholas Bequelin of Amnesty International said the U.N. human rights body's vote "provides hope for thousands of bereaved families in the Philippines and countless more Filipinos bravely challenging the Duterte administration's murderous 'war on drugs.'"

Panelo has questioned the resolution's validity, saying only 18 nations in the 47-member U.N. body voted for it.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday expressed "our solidarity with our true friends who have stood by us in this farce."

"But we will not tolerate any form of disrespect or acts of bad faith," he said. "There will be consequences, far-reaching ones."

(KA)