Evan Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Office at Geneva, said that the Philippines “strongly supports the call of the international community for human rights not to be politicised”.
“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 special rapporteur on summary executions as regards the deaths in relation to the campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines,” he wrote in a letter sent to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) president Joaquin Alexander Maza Martelli.
Speaking of Mme Callamard, Mr Garcia said: “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.”
Mme Callamard is the UN’s special rapporteur on ‘summary or arbitrary executions’. Last year she was invited to the Philippines to investigate extrajudicial killings in the country, but only on the condition that she take part in a public debate with the president.
This offer was refused, because it “did not comply with the rules and methods of work of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council”. She had earlier stressed the need for “freedom of inquiry and movement, and non-retaliation.”
Mr Garcia, however, maintains that the conditions set by the 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,” he said.
Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch, said the government’s 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.
He added: “It’s clear that the government is hoping that using baseless accusations of ‘biased prejudgment’ against a highly respected UN 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.”
Mme Callamard visited Manila in May to address a forum on illegal drugs, but she stressed her trip was for academic purposes and not directly linked to her role with the UN.