U.S. troubled by increasing extrajudicial killings in Philippines
Relatives of a suspected drug pusher, who was shot and killed by unidentified men, react upon learning that their kin was killed in Quezon city, metro Manila, Philippines March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it was troubled by the growing number of extrajudicial killings in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs and called on Manila to stick to its commitment to investigate them.
Close to 9,000 people, mostly drug users and small-time dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office almost 10 months ago and promised an unrelenting campaign to rid the Philippines of illicit narcotics.
Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defence. Human rights groups believe many of the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins cooperating with the police or by police themselves, disguised as vigilantes. The government and police reject that.
Patrick Murphy, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia, said the United States shared Manila's objective of eliminating the scourge of illicit drugs and wanted to help.
"We however do have a very sustained and deep concern when elements of the drug war are operating outside the rule of law," Murphy told reporters. "The growing number of extrajudicial killings is troubling."
Rights advocates were concerned when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sidestepped questions about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines during his January confirmation hearing, raising the possibility that President Donald Trump might take a softer line on the issue than his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Murphy said there was a distinction between being a nominee and the secretary of state and Tillerson was now the leader of the policy of expressing concern about the way the drug war was being waged.
"We are urging the Philippines to follow up on its commitment to investigate extrajudicial killings whether they are committed by law enforcement, or of a vigilante nature," he said.
Earlier on Thursday, Duterte's office rejected allegations by two senior police officers in a Reuters report that police received cash rewards for executing drug suspects, while the most high-profile critic of the president backed the officers' claims.
Duterte was infuriated by U.S. expressions of concern about extrajudicial killings after he took office last year and threatened to sever the long-standing U.S. defence alliance.
Duterte spoke positively about Trump, a fellow populist, after the U.S. presidential election in November, although his anti-U.S. rhetoric continued.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Frances Kerry)
Iran was behind cyber attack on British lawmakers in June - The Times Cables and computers are seen inside a data centre at an office in the heart of the financial district in London, Britain May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez LONDON (Reuters) - Iran carried out a cyber attack on British...READ MORE...
China confirms will amend party constitution, likely to include Xi's theories A picture shows Chinese President Xi Jinping's portrait during an exhibition displaying China's achievements for the past five years, as a part of the celebrations of the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist...READ MORE...
Gunmen attack Kenyan school, killing six children: officials NAIROBI (Reuters) - Seven people, six of them children, were killed in northern Kenya on Saturday when unknown assailants attacked a school, officials said. Cattle rustling and clashes over grazing and farming land are relatively common...READ MORE...
U.S.-backed SDF to let Syrian Islamic State fighters leave RaqqaBy John Davison and Tom Perry Children play inside a truck at a refugee camp for people displaced because of fightings between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants in Ain Issa, Syria October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Erik...READ MORE...