A German human rights official has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to finally allow the visit of a United Nations special rapporteur to investigate extrajudicial executions in connection with the government’s “war on drugs” that had allegedly claimed nearly 8,000 lives.
Bärbel Kofler, federal government commissioner for human rights policy and humanitarian aid at the German Federal Foreign Office, was referring to Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur, whose planned visit to the country has been hampered by conditions laid down by no less than Duterte, such as a one-on-one debate with him.
“I call on the Government of the Philippines to withdraw the conditions it has set and that to date have prevented Ms. Callamard from conducting a country visit,” she said.
A visit by Callamard could help clear the debate over whether the killings were state sponsored. Duterte has denied the allegations, saying the killings were perpetrated by vigilantes and rival drug syndicates.
Kofler warned Duterte that Philippine exports to European Union (EU) member-countries might be compromised if the killings do not stop and if he signs a bill re-imposing the death penalty.
“In this regard, I welcome the clear statement made by EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in Manila.
She underscored that trade incentives are not to be taken for granted, but that the EU also ties these to the observance of human rights standards,” said Kofler.
Kofler also called on the courts to give jailed Sen. Leila de Lima, a leading Duterte critic, a speedy trial for the drug trafficking charges filed against her.
The German official said de Lima must be able to exercise her mandate as senator as she is not yet convicted.
Kofler said she was deeply worried by the passage of the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives, as the Philippines is a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“The Philippines has been considered a close partner of those who, like the Federal Government, reject this inhumane punishment under all circumstances,” she said.
“This situation is highly regrettable, particularly in view of the close cooperation between Germany and the Philippines in the United Nations, for example in the fight against human trafficking, as well as on poverty reduction and international climate policy,” she added.
Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, urged Duterte not to revive the death penalty and to allow an independent human rights probe of the war on drugs.
He said the European Parliament and UN criticism of the Philippines reflected growing international frustration and dismay at the Duterte government’s “steamrolling of the rule of law” in pursuit of its war on drugs.
“New Human Rights Watch research found that Philippines police have repeatedly carried out extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, and then falsely claimed self-defense. Masked gunmen taking part in killings appeared to be working closely with the police, casting doubt on government claims that most killings have been committed by vigilantes or rival drug gangs,” Kine said in a separate statement.