UN rapporteur commits to conduct official visit to PHL

By , on May 6, 2017


United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Dr. Agnes Callamard, said Saturday she remains committed to conduct an official visit to the Philippines, reiterating that she is only here for an academic visit. (Photo by Foreign and Commonwealth Office [OGL (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/)],)
United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Dr. Agnes Callamard, said Saturday she remains committed to conduct an official visit to the Philippines, reiterating that she is only here for an academic visit. (Photo by Foreign and Commonwealth Office [OGL (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/)],)
MANILA—United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Dr. Agnes Callamard, said Saturday she remains committed to conduct an official visit to the Philippines, reiterating that she is only here for an academic visit.

”I am committed to continue my dialogue with the government and I am committed to undertake an official visit either by myself or with the special rapporteur on the right to health, because we both believe that a visit together would be more helpful, more useful, more effective,” Callamard told reporters in an ambush interview during the second day of the forum “Drug Issues, Different Perspectives”, held at the GT Toyota Center Auditorium at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman in Quezon City.

”However, I am also ready to come by myself. I’m also waiting for the government to lift the three conditions that they’ve imposed on my visit.”

The Philippine government has set three conditions that the UN special rapporteur should agree to before allowing her to conduct a special visit to the country. The government has required her to engage in a public debate with President Rodrigo Duterte; that the President would be allowed to ask the special rapporteur questions; and that Callamard take an oath.

Callamard, however, reiterated that she is in the country only for the two-day policy forum at the invitation of UP.

“There is nothing about my visit that is official. I came here for the academic conference,” she said.

The special rapporteur also stressed that the focus of the forum is not her visit, but the lessons to be learned from the experiences of other countries in their approach to the drug problem.

“We are here in the spirit of dialogue. We are here in the spirit of opening avenues of communications and sharing information. I have been repeatedly told that you don’t have an alternative. Of course we have an alternative. This is what policy reform is all about,” she said.

Malacañang has expressed disappointment over Callamard’s “surprise visit” as it raised questions on her objectivity and professionalism in carrying out her mandate as UN investigator.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella underscored the fact that on Sept. 26 last year, the Philippine government had issued an invitation for Callamard to visit the country to get the government’s perspective on the drug menace confronting the country and the efforts of law enforcement agencies and others to address that challenge within the means allowed by Philippine law.

The Palace official said that the invitation made it clear that the Philippine government respects Callamard as a professional and that “we very much wanted her to see the situation on the ground first-hand and engage in an exchange of views with officials in our government to understand our position on the issue of human rights and the progress being made in the Philippines”.

”The fact that Dr. Callamard did not respond to our invitation showed that she would not be approaching her review of allegation concerning our country objectively or comprehensively,” Abella said.

Callamard, in a separate statement issued Friday, denied Abella’s claim that the government was not informed of her visit in advance.

”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,” she said.

”The Government of the Philippines replied with letters dated 29 April and 1 May, acknowledging reception of my letter and reacting to the information about my upcoming academic trip,” she added.