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U.N. General Assembly: Live Updates

“Interest groups have weaponized human rights — some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned,” Mr. Duterte said on Tuesday, in his first appearance before the General Assembly since he assumed office in 2016.

He accused human rights campaigners of using children as human shields, though he did not elaborate or accuse specific people or groups.

The U.N. Human Rights Council last year greenlighted a resolution seeking comprehensive reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines. The organization’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also accused Mr. Duterte’s government of carrying out his campaign against drugs “without due regard for the rule of law.” She said that an investigation found that the killings there had been “widespread and systematic” and continued four years into Mr. Duterte’s term.

Karapatan, a Philippine rights group, said in advance of the speech that it expected Mr. Duterte, 75, to try to sway the General Assembly on whether he was carrying out his drug war fairly, despite evidence to the contrary.

“We anticipate another speech which will make it look like everything is great in terms of the government response to the pandemic, that the draconian policies and measures are justifiable to battle the so-called terrorists and useless critics,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. These, she said, are “all lies.”

In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Duterte said the United Nations must take the lead but must also make reforms. “The U.N. remains humanity’s essential organization, but it is only as effective as we make it,” he said.

Mr. Duterte extended a state of calamity in the country by a year on Monday, allowing the government to draw emergency funds more quickly in the pandemic. The Philippines has more than 291,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, among the highest number in Southeast Asia.

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