Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte mocked the country of Iceland in a rambling speech Friday, suggesting that people in the small Nordic island nation “go about eating ice” and that they have “no policemen.”
The comments were made during remarks to corrections department officials one day after Iceland led a United Nations resolution that called for an investigation of Duterte’s war on drugs. The resolution was adopted, 18 to 14, in the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday.
The Philippine leader suggested in response that Iceland did not understand the issues that the Philippines has with drugs, as its only problem is “ice.”
“What is the problem of Iceland? It’s just ice,” Duterte said Friday in Manila, according to ABS-CBN News. “That’s your problem, you have too much ice, and there is no clear day or night there.”
"You can understand no crime. There is no policeman either, and they just go about eating ice,” he continued.
Duterte’s view of Iceland might be described as cartoonish. The nation is small, with fewer than 350,000 residents, and it does have a far lower rate of serious crime than the Philippines. The country also lies at a high latitude, which makes days long in summer and short in winter.
But Iceland, despite its name, is not a land of ice. The country is unusually temperate for its position just outside the Arctic Circle, and traditional local cuisine consists not of frozen water, but fish, lamb and dairy products.
The comments about Iceland by Duterte, well known for his outbursts against foreign nations and their leaders, may serve to further highlight the criticism of the Philippine government from the United Nations.
In a statement released Friday in response to Duterte’s comments, Icelandic Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson said the country was glad that its resolution passed.
“The resolution is very modest, focusing on impartiality and cooperation with the U.N. to get clarity around the contested facts,” Thordarson said. “I sincerely hope that this will eventually prompt Philippine authorities to work with the U.N.”
As a result of the resolution, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights will prepare a comprehensive report on the Philippines. The resolution called for Philippine government cooperation, “including by facilitating country visits and preventing and refraining from all acts of intimidation or retaliation.”
Iceland joined the Human Rights Council last year after the Trump administration said the United States would leave the body, which resulted in an open seat.
Duterte launched an anti-narcotics campaign in 2016, claiming that the country’s drug abuse problem required a stronger hand. Police say at least 6,600 people connected to the drug trade have been killed since then, although activists say the real number is at least four times that.
Amnesty International released a study Monday that found abuses were rampant and that the campaign had reached “the threshold of crimes against humanity.”
Since entering office in 2016, the 74-year-old Duterte has frequently condemned foreign leaders and countries in rambling speeches. In separate remarks, he used a Tagalog term meaning roughly “son of a bitch” when talking about President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, and he told Obama and a U.N. human rights expert to “go to hell.”