Callamard to PH: Give us freedom of movement, access to sources
The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard wants the Philippine government to guarantee freedom of movement and unfettered access to detention facilities, witnesses and government officials, Sen. Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV bared Wednesday night.
Speaking on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Aquino made the disclosure under the interpellation of staunch human rights advocate Sen. Leila de Lima as he presented the agency’s proposed P16.59-billion budget for 2017.
“The status is that the President actually issued an invitation to the UN special rapporteur to visit the Philippines. However, in the invitation letter there were some conditions set,” said Aquino, who sponsored the DFA budget at the Senate floor.
“She has responded already with her own conditions, and now the interagency body has been created to discuss each of the parties’ conditions,” he told De Lima.
De Lima, among those advocating for an independent UN investigation of the spate of deaths under President Duterte’s drug war, had inquired about the status of the government’s invitation to the UN rapporteur to come and see the situation in the Philippines.
The invitation was the President’s response to the UN’s criticism of his approach to solving the drug problem, reproach that at one point had prompted the acerbic Mr. Duterte to threaten to leave the world body.
The following are Callamard’s conditions, as read out by Aquino at the budget deliberations Wednesday night:
- that the Philippines also invite the UN Special Rapporteur on health;
- freedom of movement in the whole country, including facilitation of transport, in particular including restricted areas;
- freedom of inquiry with regard to access to all prisons, detention centers, and places of interrogation;
- contacts with central and local authorities;
- contacts with representatives of ngos, private institutions, and the media;
- confidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons, including persons deprived of their liberty considered necessary to fulfill the mandate of her job;
- full access to all documentary material relevant to the mandate;
- assurance by the government that persons, whether officials or private individuals who have been in contact with her will not, as a result, suffer threats or punishment or be subjected to judicial proceedings;
- and appropriate security arrangements without however restricting the freedom of movement of inquiry referred to above.
Aquino said among Mr. Duterte’s conditions to Callamard is a “public debate,” one he conceded was unusual.
“It is not usual but of course it is our right to also ask for these conditions as other conditions have been asked of us,” said Aquino, still responding to De Lima.
Asked if Callamard has accepted such a requisite, Aquino said: “The UN Special rapporteur has not replied on that specific provision. However, she did reply with a list of conditions as well (stated above).”
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