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New Zealand prime minister urges Philippines to probe drug killings

In this Nov. 12, 2017 file photo, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden attends the ASEAN gala dinner celebration. She was greeted by President Rodrigo Duterte. PPD/Ace Morandante

MANILA, Philippines — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden on Tuesday said the spate of drug-related deaths in the Philippines require investigation and oversight.

"Our view is that that number of deaths certainly requires investigation and oversight—at the very least," Arden was quoted by reporters on the sidelines of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila.

“There have been attempts by the international community, is my understanding and I believe those have not been accepted. But certainly it would be a concern of any country to see that level of death as a consequence of that policy,” she added.

Arden said the level of deaths related to the drug policy of President Rodrigo Duterte “is not what New Zealand would expect to see as a national member of the international community.”

Arden made the stance ahead of her meeting with Duterte scheduled Tuesday evening. She said she would raise her human rights concern “in the same way the past leaders had.”

New Zealand has been ASEAN's dialogue partner since 1975.

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Trudeau: I discussed human rights, EJKs in meeting with Duterte

During his first year in office, Duterte received several criticisms from local and international communities for his controversial war on drugs. The anti-illegal drug campaign’s critics include the European Union and the United States under former President Barack Obama.

Human rights groups claimed Duterte's crackdown on drugs which started in July 2016 has claimed around 7,000 to 12,000 lives, a number the government has denied.

Duterte recently designated the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to be the sole agency in charge of the drug war.

Early Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said he discussed his concerns on human rights and extrajudicial killings in the country during his meeting Duterte.

Meanwhile, the White House on Monday said the topic of human rights was "briefly" tackled during US President Donald Trump's first bilateral meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, contradicting Malacañang's claim that the sensitive issue was avoided by the two leaders.

White House, Palace issue contrasting accounts of Duterte-Trump talks

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