Duterte White House Invitation is a Failure of U.S. Leadership on Human Rights

New York City–Human Rights First today condemned President Trump’s invitation to the White House of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. Since taking office less than a year ago, Duterte has overseen a so-called “war on drugs” that has resulted in the extrajudicial killing of thousands of Filipino men and women, as well as credible reports of unlawful detentions and torture. Duterte has frequently spoken favorably of murder and rape, saying at one point that he would be “happy to slaughter” more of his countrymen, and comparing himself positively to Hitler. Human Rights First’s Rob Berschinski issued the following statement:

“Giving diplomatic freebies to dictators and authoritarian strongmen like Duterte, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a fool’s bet that undermines American security and our global leadership role.  Inviting these men to the White House in effect places the United States’ seal of approval on their heinous actions.  None of this is lost on the people that men like these hold under their thumb, which always comes back to bite us.

“By necessity, the United States must at times find common ground with countries run by leaders who don’t share our values or abide by international law and common standards of decency. Yet nothing excuses President Trump’s clear inclination to reward mass-murders and torturers with undeserved honors.

“The Trump Administration rightly criticizes some governments, like Iran’s, for their repression of their people and denial of human rights, but such criticisms lose all credibility when the White House is simultaneously putting out the welcome mat for leaders with records of killing thousands of their own citizens and disregarding the rule of law. Moreover, overlooking the human rights violations of allies weakens other important aspects of our bilateral relationships.

“A repressive Philippines is a less useful, less trustworthy ally for the United States in the context of regional rivalry in the South China Sea, just as the dictatorial Sisi regime in Egypt is a poor partner in the long-term struggle against terrorism.”


Published on May 1, 2017


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