Commentary: Callamard should just resign

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IF Agnes Callamard wants to just condemn President Rodrigo Duterte, she should just resign as UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, become an activist, and work for non-government organizations. She’s mandated by UN member countries to observe the highest standard of impartiality and not to use her position as an international megaphone of forces that would like to overthrow a democratically elected government by destroying its external legitimacy.

Callamard should be reminded that she has no mandate to investigate. In August 2016, reacting to Salvador Panelo’s, Duterte’s chief legal counsel, challenge to her to visit the Philippines, Callamard tweeted: “Invitation to investigate welcomed.” She doesn’t have that power.

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The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions is provided in the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 26/12. She has no authority “to investigate.” The most she can do is “to examine situations of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in all circumstances and for whatever reason…” The Special Rapporteur does this through country visits “to enhance further his or her dialogue with governments.”

Is this just semantics? No.

An investigation is a judicial function. Callamard doesn’t have the same mandate as Fatou Bensouda, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). As provided by the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor of the ICC can carry out an investigation.

An examination of a situation doesn’t have the same function. In fact, the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) clarifies this. An examination of the situation through country visits “do[es] not have the character of a judicial inquiry; they cannot replace investigations by competent judicial authorities.” Special Rapporteurs, like Callamard, are simply not competent judicial authorities. Yet she acts blatantly prosecutorial towards our government.

An investigation is adversarial. Its aim is to find probable cause for a criminal case. On the other hand, an examination of the situation through country visits, the website of the OHCHR explains, “does not entail a condemnation of a country.“ Its goals are “to improve [the Rapporteur’s]understanding of a particular situation” so that s/he can improve the situation through “recommendations to the government.” Furthermore, the Rapporteur must conduct his or her task “in a spirit of cooperation and assistance.”

Callamard has been engaging in open confrontation with our government. Worse, she even discredits the war on drugs by forwarding the views of Professor Carl Hart that crystal meth doesn’t lead to violence.

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Rather than rely on findings from a laboratory where conditions are controlled, Callamard should talk to families and communities confronting the terror brought by crystal meth users and pushers. Yet why should she do that if she’s more interested to pursue a narrative fed to her by anti-Duterte forces, such as Chito Gascon, the former director-general of Liberal Party, which is hell bent on ousting Duterte.

This brings me to my next point.

Callamard hasn’t only assumed prosecutorial role, but also adopted a thoroughly accusatorial attitude towards our government. On March 22, 2017, reacting to Secretary of Tourism Wanda Teo’s request to media to “tone down” on #EJK report, Callamard tweeted: “She should ask Gov& Police to #StopEJK.”

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Teo’s request was unwarranted, but Callamard blatantly used her platform as a Special Rapporteur to condemn without even examining the situation. Yet she couldn’t do that anymore because she has already compromised her partiality.

She has been attending forums organized by anti-Duterte forces and even speaking at their events, veiling her participation as being done in her “personal capacity.” She spoke at a film showing in Geneva in March 2017, which was meant to show support for Sen. Leila de Lima. And every now and then, she kept releasing public statements on her twitter account that are obviously against the government. Meanwhile, she hasn’t tweeted anything against drug syndicates and their government protectors, which are both equally capable of killing people to protect their interests in this drug war.

While Callamard refuses to comply with the condition of the Duterte administration that they engage in a public debate during her visit because that’s against her mandate, she has no qualms about overstepping her mandate if it’s in favor of supporting the cause of those who would like to destroy Duterte’s legitimacy.

The UN Standards for Conduct for International Civil Servants explains what impartiality is:

Impartiality implies tolerance and restraint, particularly in dealing with political or religious convictions. While their personal views remain inviolate, international civil servants do not have the freedom of private persons to take sides or to express their convictions publicly on controversial matters, either individually or as members of a group. This can mean that, in certain situations, personal views should only be expressed with tact and discretion.

Since the time she started showing interest in what’s going on in our country, Callamard has not observed that at all. Since she repeatedly overstepped her mandate and failed to observe that standard of impartiality, she should just resign and let other people do her job according to its mandate.

(Published in The Manila Times on 13 March 2018)

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