Karapatan backs Callamard probe of drug deaths, urges UN expert to also look into political killings

May 8, 2017 - 9:41 AM
Agnes Callamard, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, gestures while delivering a statement during a "Drug issues, Different Perspectives" forum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, May 5, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

MANILA, Philippines — A leading human rights organization backed an investigation into the thousands of drug war killings by United Nations expert Agnes Callamard and urged her to also look into the allegedly politically motivated murders of activists, peasants, indigenous people, and other advocates.

Karapatan raised its position following the unofficial visit to the country of the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary killings or arbitrary executions, who had been invited to speak at a May 5 forum on Philippine drug policies at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.

Callamard’s visit drew flak from the government, with presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella claiming she had not informed it beforehand. But the UN expert belied this, saying she had done so and stressed it was “not an official visit.”

“We agree with Ms. Callamard that the current policy on the war on drugs is lacking in addressing the socio-economic causes of the illegal drug trade. Policy alternatives should be explored to formulate programs which prioritize people’s rights, framed within the structural causes of poverty,” Karapatan said in a statement.

At the same time, Cristina Palabay, the rights organization’s secretary general, stressed that extrajudicial killings committed in the course of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign “likewise merit the attention of Callamard.”

Palabay pointed out that the campaigns by various administrations to suppress the close to half-century old communist armed movement “have victimized thousands of Filipinos in peasant and indigenous communities, with attacks on civilians and members of progressive organizations legitimized as them being ‘enemies of the State’.”

While the Duterte administration has resumed formal peace negotiations with the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines, both sides have not renewed the unilateral ceasefires they had terminated in February.

On April 10, Karapatan submitted to Callamard a letter of allegation and documentations of 47 political killings that took place under the Duterte administration. Rise Up, a network campaigning against the drug war killings, of which Karapatan is also part, is set to file cases before the UN concerning said killings.