MANILA, Philippines — A human rights group said President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest tirades against United Nations special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, including a threat to “slap” her, were not just “deplorable and undiplomatic” but also “dangerous acts undermining international human rights mechanisms.”
Duterte has publicly attacked the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, often with invective-laden rants, several times since she began speaking out on the extrajudicial killings that have marked the aggressive war on drugs he has waged since becoming president last year.
He has also repudiated Callamard’s challenge to officially invite her to visit the country and investigate the killings, saying she can do so only if she agrees to be questioned by him and engage him in public debate. The UN expert has rejected his conditions, saying they violate her mandate.
On November 10, speaking to Filipinos in Vietnam, Duterte threatened to “slap” Callamard. This earned him a rebuke from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein over “the repeated insults and threats of physical violence against UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, by the president of the Philippines and his supporters.”
New presidential spokesman Harry Roque attempted to portray Duterte’s statement as “ unorthodox rhetoric.”
But Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, in a statement released Tuesday, November 28, called Roque’s comment “a lame excuse to promote further rights violations and impunity.”
Last week, Callamard, with fellow special rapporteurs Michel Forst (the situation of human rights defenders) Diego García-Sayán (the independence of judges and lawyers), again issued a statement urging the Duterte government to end the killings associated with its war on drugs and ensure accountability.
“We call on the Government to urgently introduce appropriate measures to stop these attacks and killings being carried out” and to “carry out prompt, impartial investigations into the high number of killings in the context of the anti-drugs campaign, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and thoroughly review its current policy in this regard,” they said, citing “a great number of new cases … reported to us involving killings of men, women and children,” many of which “appear to be perpetrated by law enforcement officials and by unknown assailants.”
Palabay said Duterte’s repeated tirades against Callamard and other “perceived enemies “are becoming like (the) worn-out rants of a madman. Parang sirang plaka na itong si Duterte (Duterte is sounding like a broken record).”
At the same time, she suggested a reason for his profanity-laden statements, calling these “smoke and mirrors of his regime’s real intent to cover-up the accountability of his government and state forces on numerous cases of extrajudicial killings in his war against drugs.”
Karapatan also stressed the mandate of UN special procedures “to look into and raise concerns on reports of human rights violations in states,” citing the 2008 report of Callamard’s predecessor, Philip Alston, which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and “helped in exposing the pattern and policy of extrajudicial killings through the (Gloria Macaagal) Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program before the international community.”
She also pointed to the 2015 visit of Chaloka Beyani, UN independent expert on the rights of internally displaced persons, who spoke out on the conditions of lumad displaced by the human rights abuses accompanying military operations in Mindanao.
“Despite the Duterte administration’s stubborn refusal to invite Callamard for an official investigation in the country,” Karapatan said it would “continue to engage with Callamard and other UN independent experts by submitting complaints and letters of allegation on extrajudicial killings and other rampant human rights violations under the current regime.”
“It is our mandate and right as a human rights organization to report the cases and pursue State accountability for all acts committed by State security forces against the people, in all venues available including international mechanisms of the UN,” Palabay said.
“We will never be cowered by any words and acts of a tyrant. We will continue to provide assistance to victims of State violence and be one with them in their struggle for justice,” she added.