The Duterte administration and the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings were at loggerheads over the terms of reference of the inquiry into the alleged human rights violations in the Philippines as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stressed the international human rights expert cannot conduct an investigation if there will be no ToR agreement between the two parties.
“As we have been saying all along, the ToR is negotiated and agreed on by the two sides,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a text message, in reaction to reports that the planned investigation would be in accordance with the ToR already set by the UN.
The UN, the European Union, the United States and international human rights groups have all raised concerns over alleged extra-judicial killings (EJK).But President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected the allegations and called the campaign an internal affair of the country.
Special rapporteur Agnes Callamard has expressed her commitment to conduct a fact-finding visit to the Philippines in the first quarter of 2017 as she maintained that the terms for fact-finding missions would be drafted by the rapporteurs and that the government must accept these terms for the investigation to go through.
“The visits of the special rapporteur, as those of all UN human rights special procedures, are governed by the terms of reference for fact-finding missions by special rapporteurs, which governments are requested to fully accept for any visit to take place,” Callamard said.
Duterte has insisted in his invitation that he be allowed to publicly ask questions to the rapporteur.
Callamard claimed that the dates for the mission have not been fixed yet, saying the probe will take a week or two.
But Jose said no TOR means UN rapporteurs will not be allowed to investigate and it is wrong to say the Philippine government will just follow blindly to what the UN dictates.
“They need to cooperate first with the Philippine government and craft the needed ToR to avoid conflict,” he pointed out.
In a briefing note along with information about the working methods for fact-finding missions, Callamard said it is important for any country under the UN probe, to accept their ToR.
“These are essential guarantees which ensure that the mission delivers on its outcomes, to the benefit of all those involved,” she stressed.
Among the conditions set by the UN special rapporteur are freedom of movement in the whole country, including facilitation of transport, 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, representatives of non-government organizations, private institutions and the media; as well as 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.
Callamard is also demanding full access to all documentary materials relevant to the mandate; the government assurance 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.