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UN Calls for Psychiatric Evaluation After Duterte Puts Top Human Rights Expert on 'Hit List'

President of Philippines decried for 600-person "terrorist list" which includes the UN special rapporteur on indigenous human rights

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte accused a U.N. human rights investigator of terrorism, prompting the U.N. to suggest that Duterte, who has been accused of multiple human rights violations, should undergo a psychiatric evaluation. (Photo: Prachatai/Flickr/cc)

The United Nations human rights chief suggested that Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte's mental health should be evaluated after the authoritarian leader included a U.N. official on what Human Rights Watch has called a "government hit list" of alleged terrorists.

Duterte's justice department listed Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the U.N. special rapporteur on indigenous human rights, on a list of 600 people who have allegedly used "acts of terror" to undermine the president. The list labels those on it as members of the country's Communist Party or its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

"He needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination," said the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. "This kind of comment is unacceptable. These attacks cannot go unanswered, the U.N. human rights council must take a position."

"He needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination. This kind of comment is unacceptable." —Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, U.N. human rights chief

Tauli-Corpuz was included on the list after she reported on the displacement and killings of the Philippines' indigenous Lumad people at the hands of Duterte's armed forces, allegedly due to "unfounded suspicions that Lumads are involved with militant groups or in view of their resistance to mining activities on their ancestral lands."

After Duterte's terrorist list was released, Tauli-Corpuz slammed the Filipino leader for putting her life and the lives of others—including environmental campaigners and left-wing activists—at risk, calling the accusations of terrorism "baseless, malicious, and irresponsible."

Duterte has been accused of multiple human rights violations, overseeing a brutal "war on drugs" in which at least 12,000 Filipinos have been killed, including thousands at the hands of the Philippine National Police. Last summer, he also called on the police to shoot human rights activists for "obstructing justice."  

"The attack against the special rapporteur is taking place in the context of widespread extrajudicial executions and ongoing attacks against voices who are critical of the current government, including human rights defenders," said Michel Forst, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on human rights defenders.

"The Justice Department petition is a virtual government hit list," wrote Carlos Conde, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. "There's a long history in the Philippines of the state security forces and pro-government militias assassinating people labeled as NPA members or supporters. The Duterte administration should publicly reject this petition and ensure the safety of those listed in it—or risk being complicit in the resulting crimes."

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