Trudeau should add killer Duterte to sanctions list

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal 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 provides 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.

“At the age of 16, I already killed someone,” he said. “A real person. A rumble. A stabbing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look. How much more now that I am president?”

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.

So Trudeau should be prepared if he dares to criticize Duterte. 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 would be 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 has 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.

Thomas Walkom is a Troy Media national columnist.

Just Posted

Rocky Mountain House man arrested for child pornography possession

A 30-year-old Rocky Mountain House man was arrested after allegedly having explicit… Continue reading

Break-in suspects sought

Coronation RCMP investigate

Advocate to correct TV Guide error

Accurate TV Guide to be available Saturday

Red Deer’s City Hall Park is taken over by a film crew Sunday

St. Albert filmmaker is shooting an independent feature

WATCH: Central Middle School students’ Christmas tree

A group of Central Middle School students are set to show off… Continue reading

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

100+ Women Red Deer donate to Christmas Bureau

About $14,000 will help with Christmas hampers and toys

Semi collides with vehicle on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

Members of the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit dealt with a call on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

After 70 years, Red Deer veteran still remembers his traumatic war experience

Frank Krepps feels lucky to have survived the Second World War

Merritt Mountie charged with assault

Charges are in relation to an incident in May at the detachment, B.C. Prosecution Service said

Blackfalds RCMP arrest “armed and dangerous” man

A 38-year-old man, who police identified as armed and dangerous, was arrested… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C.’s own hammock deer garners celebrity status

After getting tangled in a backyard hammock the deer in Prince Rupert has T-shirts, Facebook page

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month