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UN rapporteur visit on hold

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by December 16, 2016 General
Nation

By Lucia Edna P. de Guzman

Posted on December 17, 2016

THE United Nations-led investigation on extrajudicial killings (EJKs) might not push through, as the government and the UN have reached a stalemate regarding conditions for the probe.

”If she cannot comply with [the conditions set by the President], then that’s the end of it,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr. said, referring to United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Agnes Callamard, during a press conference at Orchard Road, Singapore yesterday. “But, let it not be said that the Philippines has withdrawn the invitation for her.”

Ms. Callamard had already made her conclusions on the extent of the alleged human rights violations and EJKs in the country before she had conducted her investigation, which she based on “unverified media reports,” Mr. Yasay said.

“The invitation was given to the President so that if her coming over will support the conclusion and decision that she already arrived at, the President will have will be given the opportunity precisely to debate with it and to argue against it,” Mr. Yasay explained.

The foreign affairs chief further stated that Ms. Callamard should apologize for statements that damage the image of the country, which caused people to jump to conclusions, including the decision of the US government-led Millennium Challenge Corporation to stop providing financial aid to the Philippines.

”The damage that she has wrought on the basis of her responsibility is so great. It demands no less than an apology.”

Malacañang, in its invitation to Ms. Callamard issued last September, set the following conditions for her country visit: a public debate with the President, for him to be given an opportunity to probe her findings, and for her to be under oath on the veracity of her findings.

PUBLIC PRESS CONFERENCE, NOT PUBLIC DEBATE
In an interview with CNN yesterday, Ms. Callamard said that she could not accede to such conditions.

“I have explained to the government in a letter which was sent to [them] yesterday (Dec. 14) that those three conditions contravene the Code of Conduct that I have to abide by as a Special Rapporteur,” Ms. Callamard said.

She explained that her job requires her to build trust with her sources, whether from the government or from convicted criminals, which could be destroyed by a public debate.

In her counter-conditions, which were disclosed by Senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV in a Senate hearing on October, Ms. Callamard requested among other things freedom of movement and inquiry, and confidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses.

Ms. Callamard instead suggested to have a private debriefing with the President and a joint press conference after, when Mr. Duterte would be rebut her preliminary findings. She stressed that given the one-week length of her visit, all her findings would be considered preliminary and could not be an object to a public debate.

As for the demand to take an oath, she said that this also goes against the UN Code of Conduct. “I am not supposed to accept any instructions from anybody, including the government… I had already given an oath when I was appointed by the 48-member States of the Human Rights Council.”

“I trust that [the Philippine government] will review thoroughly my letter and agree to proceed on the basis on the Code of Conduct of the Special Rapporteur,” Ms. Callamard said.

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