UN rapporteur draws flak

‘Surprise visit’ defies protocol, Palace complains

Malacañang on Friday said that it will direct the country’s representatives to the United Nations to file a complaint against UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial and Summary Executions Agnes Callamard after she failed to notify the government of her visit to Manila this week.

In Manila on an “academic” visit until May 8, Callamard described President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs as “ill-conceived” and warned that it would only make the country’s drug problem worse.

Expressing disappointment over Callamard’s unannounced visit, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella criticized the UN rapporteur as unprofessional for failing to inform the government of her visit. This, he added, was a “clear signal” she was not interested in an objective view of the drug situation.

“This is a matter we have asked our representatives at the United Nations to take up with their United Nations counterparts and it is something our delegation in Geneva will certainly be raising during their current visit,” Abella said.

“Our position is very clear, if Dr. Callamard is committed to ensuring due process to our government and a truly objective assessment of our record on an issue of tremendous importance to our nation, she should be in Geneva meeting with our representatives,” he said, echoing the position of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which said she should speak with the country’s representatives at the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland.

“If she has indeed arrived in the Philippines at this time, this puts her motives and sincerity in question especially since the country will be undergoing the UPR review in the next few days and the country’s HR [human rights] officials are all in Geneva and have even sought a meeting with her there,” DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said.

“It’s unfortunate that the Philippine delegation to the UPR will not be able to meet her in Geneva. The date for the Philippines’ review under the UPR process has been set some time ago and she is aware of this,” he added.

Abella said Callamard arrived “in a manner that circumvents all recognized United Nations protocols for such visits.”

“We are disappointed that, in not contacting our government in advance of this visit, she has sent a clear signal that she is not interested in getting an objective perspective,” Duterte’s spokesman said.

HAND SIGNAL. United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard addresses a narcotics forum in Manila at the start of her two-day unannounced visit, angering President Rodrigo Duterte whose war on  illegal drugs she has vowed to look into.  Malacañang described Callamard’s surprise visit as a ‘clear signal’ she  was not interested in an objective view of the drug situation.  AFP/ Malacañang    
“The fact that Dr. Callamard did not respond to our invitation showed that she would not be approaching her review of allegations concerning our country objectively or comprehensively,” he added.

Callamard previously branded the Philippines as “one of the worst places right now outside an armed conflict situation” following the thousands of killings as a result of Duterte’s war on drugs.

In her address before academicians at the University of the Philippines on Friday, she warned that the Philippines will suffer “perverse consequences of ill-thought-out drug policies” if the government will not listen to “better ways; other options, and better options” in responding to the drug menace.

“In April 2016, the general assembly of the world’s government recognized explicitly that the ‘war on drugs’—be it community-based, national or global—does not work,” said Callamard, whose said she is not here on an official basis.

“Many harms associated with drugs are not caused by drugs, but by the negative impacts of badly thought-out drug policies,” she added.

Among consequences of the bloody drug war if left unaddressed, Callamard said, were extrajudicial and gang-related killings, a breakdown of the rule of law, vigilante crimes, torture, ill treatment of prisoners, sexual violence, prolonged detention, detention in rehabilitation centers without trial and non-consensual experimental treatment.

“Badly thought-out, ill-conceived drug policies not only fail to address substantively drug dependency, drug-related criminality, and the drug trade, they add more problems, as has been well documented around the world,” she said.

The French rapporteur also emphasized that this way of combating drug abuse and trafficking makes the situation worse.

“The joint commitment to effectively addressing and countering the world drug problem is a call for action, but not to any action: according to the world’s leaders there are other ways, better ways; evidence-based, scientific ways, of combating drug abuse and trafficking—ways that do not make matters worse,” she said.

Callamard, who earlier gained the ire of Duterte for her statements condemning his war on illegal drugs, earlier called for the lifting of pre-conditions the government has set for her to investigate allegations of extrajudicial executions committed by state forces, particularly the police.

Duterte had earlier accused her of breaking protocol when she allegedly jumped to conclusions based on unverified media reports that the President was promoting extrajudicial killings in the country, “which is not consistent with the protocols established under the rules of her office and the protocols of the United Nations.”

Duterte even challenged the rapporteur for a public debate to prove her allegations on the extrajudicial killings, but she refused.

In an interview with reporters, Callamard said the Philippine government is free to monitor her unofficial visit to the Philippines.

“They are entitled to monitor me—absolutely. I am here at the invitation of the university and of the task force and I will participate in the discussion—the only contribution and work that I will be doing over the next two days,” she said.

Callamard called on stakeholders to help in developing proposals “with and for the government of the Philippines,” on an effective and sustainable way to address the drug menace, “taking into account the country’s specific situation, history and context, as well as its multiple assets and opportunities.”

At the same time, she praised those who spoke out against Duterte’s drug war.

“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.”

The government appeared to be caught off guard by Callamard’s unannounced trip. With AFP    

Topics: Malacañang , UN Special Rapporteur , Agnes Callamard , President Rodrigo Duterte , War on drugs
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