Philippines complains to UN agency about Callamard

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines complained to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) about special rapporteur (SR) Agnes Callamard for her alleged "consistent biased prejudgment" about the killings in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.  

In a letter dated June 19, Evan Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Office at Geneva,  explained that the Philippines "strongly supports the call of the international community for human rights not to be politicized."

"It is in this light that the government of the Republic of the Philippines expresses its extreme displeasure over the consistent biased prejudgment made by the SR on Summary Executions as regards the deaths in relation to the campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines," Garcia said.

Garcia's letter was addressed to UNHRC president Joaquin Alexander Maza Martelli.

Garcia added of Callamard: "She has made public her prejudgments on the situation in the Philippines without thorough consideration of the facts and the necessary engagement with Philippine authorities."

Callamard is the UN's special rapporteur on on summary or arbitrary executions, connected with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The Philippines had invited Callamard to investigate extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, on the condition that Callamard should have a public debate with Duterte about her findings, among other things.  

Conditions 'reasonable,' Philippines says

Callamard refuses the conditions set by the Philippine government because these "did not comply with the rules and methods of work of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council." 

She earlier stressed the need for "freedom of inquiry and movement, and non-retaliation."

Garcia, however, said the "conditions" set by the Philippine government "reinforce the principle of transparency and accountability in the conduct of work of the Special Rapporteur."

"Moreover, these 'conditions' do not violate the Code of Conduct and the independence of the Special Rapporteur. In fact, by any standard, these are reasonable terms of reference of a country visit," Garcia said. 

Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch, said the Philippine government's June 19 letter to the UNHRC president shows that the Philippines "is choosing to pursue a defamatory character assassination campaign against Agnes Callamard" instead of engaging her on a UN probe into the war on drugs.

Kine added: "It's clear that the government is hoping that using baseless accusations of 'biased prejudgment' against a highly respected United Nations official who is seeking only to fulfill her mandate of investigating extrajudicial killings will serve as a smokescreen to deter a probe into a government-backed killing campaign that has claimed the lives of least 7,000 Filipinos over the past year."

Callamard already visited the Philippines in May to deliver the keynote speech in a forum on illegal drugs, but she stressed her trip was academic in nature.

 

She said she was still looking forward to an official visit to probe Duterte's anti-drug campaign.

Despite this, the Philippines was one of the countries that backed the move to extend Callamard's term as the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.

In a resolution dated June 22, the Human Rights Council has extended Callamard's term for another 3 years. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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