Callamard: Philippine government knew of Manila visit


Posted at May 05 2017 11:01 PM

Callamard: Philippine government knew of Manila visit 1
United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard attends the University of the Philippines (UP) human rights forum on Friday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN news

The Philippine government knew she would be visiting Manila, the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions said Friday.

Agnes Callamard, in a statement posted on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she is rejecting the claim of Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, who said that she failed to notify the government of her visit.

“On 28 April 2017, the Government was officially informed of my forthcoming visit to the country to take part in an academic conference on drug related issues. The Government was also informed that the trip was not an official visit,” Callamard said.

Callamard added that the Philippine government acknowledged receipt of her letters and replied on April 29 and May 1. She said she communicated with the Permanent Mission of the Philippines via phone, mail, and email until May 4.

She reiterated that she is only visiting to participate in an academic conference on drug-related issues and was not assessing the situation in the country.

“There will be no report presented to the Human Rights Council. It is normal routine for Special Rapporteurs to visit countries to attend different conferences or events, but such activities are not official country visits,” she said.

A sponsor of the forum that Callamard attended also said that the UN official fulfilled all requirements needed to come to the Philippines, which includes informing the administration of her stay in the country.

"As far as we all know, the UN Special Rapporteur followed all protocols and all of the procedures required, which means, including informing the Philippine government, contrary to what is listed on the (Palace) statement," Atty. Chel Diokno, secretary general of Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), said.

'War on drugs does not work'

Callamard, in a speech at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, warned of the many pitfalls of governments globally adopting violent responses to illegal drugs, and said she had been watching events in the Philippines closely.

"The 'war on drugs' does not work," she said.

Callamard praised people in the Philippines who had spoken out against the war on drugs launched by the Duterte administration.

"I have followed testimonies of the relatives of victims, I have seen the brave work of civil society actors, lawyers, human rights defenders, academics, senators," she said.

"I have heard debates between politicians, explanations by government officials, and indeed I have watched footage too of police and military men – and all saying there are other ways; better ways; other options, and better options."

Duterte last year invited Callamard to visit the Philippines to investigate the killings, but set strict conditions including a demand that she have a public debate with him on the drug war.

Callamard refused to come under those conditions. 

The United Nations said Friday that as the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Callamard is an unpaid consultant, and not an employee of the world body.

"The important point we want to stress is that this trip had no connection with our office. It was private," UN rights office spokesman Xabier Celaya told AFP.

Unsolved killings

More than 5,600 homicide cases remain unsolved in nine months after Duterte rose to power and ordered a campaign against illegal drugs, police have admitted.

Data from the Philippine National Police showed at least 9,432 homicide cases recorded from July 2016 to March 2017.

Authorities have yet to determine the motive for the killings in 5,691 cases, Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez, PNP Director for Investigation and Detective Management, said in a press conference.

"Investigations take time. We have to hear witnesses, conduct forensic examinations. We have to know what really happened," he said.

In a major report on the drug war in February, Amnesty International accused police of shooting defenseless people, paying assassins to murder addicts and stealing from those they killed.

Callamard's visit came as the Philippines was preparing to defend the drug war at a UN Human Rights Council hearing in Geneva on Monday.

The hearing is part of a periodic review that all member countries must be subjected to. - with a report from Agence France-Presse