Israeli Rights Activists Ask Yad Vashem to Cancel Philippine President's Visit

Rodrigo Duterte has been accused of Holocaust denial and ordering the extrajudicial killing of drug dealers and addicts.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reviews police academy graduates near Manila, March 24, 2017.
Reuters / Romeo Ranoco

Israeli human rights activists have asked the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial to cancel the planned visit by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of the mass murder of suspected drug addicts and dealers.

Duterte, who took office at the end of June, has also been accused of indulging in a form of Holocaust denial. He is due to make an official visit to Israel in a few months.

On Sunday, attorney Eitay Mack sent a letter in the name of 14 Israeli human rights activists to Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They asked for a change in protocol for Duterte's trip; normally, a visit by a head of state mandates a trip to the Yad Vashem museum and remembrance center in Jerusalem.

During Duterte’s presidential election campaign, he warned that if he was elected he might cause the death of up to 100,000 criminals in his first six months in office. International human rights groups claim that since he took office, some 7,000 people, mostly suspected users or sellers of drugs, have been killed by death squads of the Philippine police.

The people doing the killings are usually masked men who come to poverty-stricken neighborhoods and shoot suspects, Mack wrote.

“Sometimes the murderers leave a sign on the body saying ‘I’m addicted to drugs; don’t be like me,’” Mack wrote. “Most of those killed are poor, and it is possible some used drugs, but they are not drug dealers.”

In addition, a year and a half ago, Duterte said something that could be interpreted as partial Holocaust denial: “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are 3 million drug addicts .... I’d be happy to slaughter them.” Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

According to the activists, an official visit to Yad Vashem by Duterte would be a clear violation of the institution's role, which does not include the giving of legitimacy to people responsible for serious crimes or the promotion of weapons sales, as they put it.

Mack mentioned a number other official visits to Yad Vashem by controversial leaders, saying all were key clients of Israeli arms makers.