Trudeau should add Duterte to sanc­tions list

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL - Thomas Walkom Thomas Walkom is a na­tional af­fairs writer for Torstar Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices

Justin Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment has used its so-called Magnitsky Act to im­pose sanc­tions on Rus­sian and Venezue­lan lead­ers ac­cused of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. Po­lit­i­cally, that’s easy.

But the prime min­is­ter’s trip to Manila this week pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to use that law against one of the true vil­lains of the mod­ern era — Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte. And that will be more dif­fi­cult.

Duterte should be sanc­tioned. He con­dones, en­cour­ages and in all like­li­hood or­ders the mur­der of his own cit­i­zens. Ac­cord­ing to a com­plaint filed with the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court in The Hague, he is re­spon­si­ble for the mur­der of at least 9,400 peo­ple sus­pected of be­ing drug ad­dicts or push­ers.

Some mur­ders were al­legedly car­ried out by po­lice act­ing un­der his in­struc­tion. Oth­ers are said to have been com­mit­ted by state-fi­nanced vig­i­lantes.

The Euro­pean Union par­lia­ment has de­cried what it calls ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings un­der the Duterte regime. The United Na­tions spe­cial rap­por­teur on ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings has also taken him to task.

Duterte doesn’t deny his guilt. He ad­mits it. In fact, he rev­els in it.

The for­mer tough-guy mayor of Davao was elected pres­i­dent last year on a prom­ise to kill 100,000 drug ad­dicts and push­ers. Last De­cem­ber, he bragged that as Davao’s mayor he had per­son­ally shot dead sus­pected crim­i­nals in or­der to set an ex­am­ple for his po­lice of­fi­cers.

On Fri­day, at an Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion sum­mit in Viet­nam, he bragged that he was a teenager when he made his first kill.

Last year he com­pared him­self to Hitler, say­ing he would like to kill as many drug ad­dicts as the Nazi leader did Jews. “At least Ger­many had Hitler,” he said.

Duterte does not take crit­i­cism well. He fa­mously called Barack Obama a “son of a whore” when it was merely sug­gested that the then U.S. pres­i­dent might chide him for the mur­ders. On Fri­day, the Philip­pine pres­i­dent threat­ened to slap the face of the UN spe­cial rap­por­teur.

Trudeau dared to crit­i­cize Duterte, re­sult­ing in a public at­tack. Yet how could the prime min­is­ter not do so, par­tic­u­larly in light of Canada’s adop­tion of the Magnitsky Act last month?

That act, named after a Rus­sian lawyer who died in prison after ac­cus­ing of­fi­cials there of tax fraud, gives Canada’s gov­ern­ment the power to im­pose sanc­tions and travel bans on for­eign­ers deemed to have com­mit­ted gross hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

This month, Ot­tawa an­nounced it was tar­get­ing 52 of­fi­cials from Rus­sia, Venezuela and South Su­dan — in­clud­ing Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro. With the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of the three South Su­danese of­fi­cials, I doubt that any of the 52 has as much blood on his hands as Duterte.

Given its prove­nance, the dan­ger in the Magnitsky Act has al­ways been that it would be used ex­clu­sively as a po­lit­i­cal weapon in the new Cold War be­tween the west and Rus­sia. Adding Venezuela to the mix does lit­tle to al­le­vi­ate this prob­lem since Maduro is al­ready on Wash­ing­ton’s hit list.

The in­clu­sion of three of­fi­cials deemed re­spon­si­ble for the car­nage in South Su­dan broad­ens the ef­fec­tive scope of the act and is there­fore wel­come. But, since South Su­dan is a not an im­por­tant player on the world stage, that move was also easy.

Telling the truth about Duterte was po­lit­i­cally more dif­fi­cult. He is pop­u­lar both at home in the Philip­pines and among many in the di­as­pora — in­clud­ing some who have em­i­grated to Canada. But if the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment truly be­lieves in the prin­ci­ples be­hind the Magnitsky Act — if it truly be­lieves there should be moral­ity in for­eign af­fairs — then Trudeau had no choice.

He can­not treat this murderous man as just an­other duly elected leader. He can­not travel all the way to Manila and ig­nore the killings there.

Prac­ti­cally, Canada can do lit­tle to af­fect events in the Philip­pines. But by us­ing the Magnitsky Act against Duterte, it could at least sig­nal its dis­taste.

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