32 countries urge PH to allow UN rapporteur visit without preconditions


Expressing “deep concerns” over the thousands of deaths linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, 32 countries have urged the Philippine government to permit United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to visit “without preconditions or limitations.”

Those countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

“We wish to express our deep concerns over the high number of killings associated with the so-called ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines,” they said in a joint statement, which was read by Iceland Representative to the UN Högni S. Kristjánsson during the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

The countries said they are alarmed that “over 7,000 people have reportedly been killed since the anti-drug campaign was launched last July, many in circumstances, which remain, unexplained.”

They also expressed concern “at the lack of appropriate investigation into or, accountability for these killings, contrary to basic democratic safeguards and the rule of law.”

“In this regard, we urge the Philippines to accept a visit from the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, without preconditions or limitations,” the statement read.

While they expressed understanding over the negative implications of drug addiction and its consequences, the 32 UN-membering countries insisted that “any efforts to respond to the challenge of illicit drugs must be carried out in full compliance with due process and international human rights law.”

They called on the Philippine government “to take all necessary measures to bring these killings to an end and to ensure prompt, independent and credible investigations into all violent deaths.”

They also called on the authorities to “take immediate steps to create and maintain in law and in practice a safe and enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders.”

Callamard has been seeking an investigation into killings related with the Duterte administration’s drug war.

Duterte, who assumed office in June last year, invited Callamard to come to the country and investigate. His invitation, however, comes with conditions, including a public debate with him and that the UN special rapporteur should take an oath to “confirm her intention to be truthful.”

But Callamard said in a statement that these conditions set by the Philippines were “inconsistent with the Special Rapporteur Code of Conduct and Terms of Reference for country visits.” She added that after the “private debriefing with the government,” a joint press conference could be held.

Last month, a team co-lead by then-Senator and now Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano refuted the alleged existence of state-sponsored killings of drug suspects and criminals in the country during the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on the status of human rights record in the country.

Cayetano dismissed the reported high death toll as “alternative facts” or “fake news,” insisting that more than half of the statistics were deaths caused by vigilante or unknown suspects and not by the police during presumed legitimate operations.

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