UN Special Rapporteurs not the enemy


  • image
    Screengrab of the Diwata’s comeuppance

    Do you remember Chaloka Beyani and the Lumad at Haran?

    Beyani is the UN Special Rapporteur for Internally Displaced Persons. He helped bring to the world the truth about the displaced Lumad and their supporters. He helped demolish  
    the drama and the lies staged by Nancy Catamco — who wanted to forcibly drag back the Lumad to the mountain villages where the Alamara lay in wait to mow them down.

    Do you remember how the Armed Forces tried to twist Beyani’s words, how the AFP lied to make it look like a UN expert was extolling their human rights violations and validating Catamco’s lies?

    Read: UN special rapporteur’s office hits AFP for ‘gross misrepresentation’ 

    Read: Fiery Chieftain Takes Down Catamco

    Do you know that Michelle Campos, the brave orphaned daughter of Lianga’s Dionel Campos, spoke before UN experts who urged the Aquino government to stop the persecution of the Lumad?

    We hailed the UN experts then because they stood for people who needed as much help as they could get — even while we were already helping them.

    President Rodrigo Duterte, with his long time affinity with the Lumad, knows more than most people that UN Special Rapporteurs are NOT enemies of the Filipino people. They’re not stooges, not agents by foreign powers.

    Some background

    Special Rapporteurs — independent experts and working group members – work on behalf of the United Nations within the scope of “special procedures” and they bear a specific mandate from the UN Human Rights Council.

    There are two kinds of mandates from the council – a country mandate or a thematic mandate. As of 27 March 2015, there are 41 thematic and 14 country mandates (List below)

    Special Rapporteurs need permission from a country to visit. (“At the invitation of States..”) To shorten the process, some countries have issued “STANDING INVITATIONS”. The Philippines is NOT among these countries.

    UN Special Rapporteurs are NOT paid UN staff.

    “They undertake to uphold independence, efficiency, competence and integrity through probity, impartiality, honesty and good faith. The independent status of the mandate-holders is crucial for them to be able to fulfil their functions in all impartiality. A mandate-holder’s tenure in a given function, whether it is a thematic or country mandate, is limited to a maximum of six years.”

    They receive logistical support from UN Office of the High Commissioners on Human Rights. They also get funding from charities and corporations. (arguably, problematic for critics of the system) http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Introduction.aspx

    PH Mission

    alston44
    photo from http://www.humanrightsphilippines.net

    The last mission to the Philippines to by a Special Rapporteur on extra judicial executions was by Philip Alston in 2007, during former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. (His reports came out the following year and in 2009. He is now special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.)

    alstonalston2I covered that visit and saw how tense the situation was to get witnesses safely to Alston, given the murders committed by Mrs. Arroyo’s heroes.

    Here’s a story from that time: Kin, Colleagues brave risks to join UN probe into extrajudicial killings

    Media killings were also part of Alston’s probe

    Other UN experts

    In 2015, UN Special Rapporteur for Internally-Displaced Persons, Chaloka Beyani, came to investigate the plight of the Lumad of Mindanao. Among the places he visited was the Haran sanctuary in Davao City. Here are some stories on that interesting episode:

    UN special rapporteur’s office hits AFP for ‘gross misrepresentation’ http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/08/11/15/un-special-rapporteurs-office-hits-afp-gross-misrepresentation

    “THE AFP STATEMENT PROVIDED IS CONSEQUENTLY A GROSS MISREPRESENTATION OF THE POSITION OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR” — Graham Fox, media officer of Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Peoples

    https://www.facebook.com/inday.espinavarona/posts/10153105194707507

    Special Mission, Dirty Tricks

    https://indayvarona.com/2015/08/11/special-mission-harold-cabunocs-truth/

    AFP apologizes to UN Special Rapporteur, officer resigns

    http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/regions/08/13/15/afp-apologizes-un-special-rapporteur-officer-resigns

     Additional background

    The earliest such appointment under these UN Special Procedures was the 1980 Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

    This came after passage of the Commission on Human Rights resolution 20 (XXXVI). The first Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions reporting to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1982/35 begun work in 1982.

    There are five United Nations regional work groupings: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Western group.

    What do special rapporteurs do?

    “They can act on individual cases of alleged violations and concerns of a broader, structural nature by sending communications to States; conduct thematic studies and convene expert consultations, contributing to the development of international human rights standards ; engage in advocacy and raise public awareness ; and provide advice for technical cooperation. Special Procedures report annually to the Human Rights Council and the majority of the mandates also report to the General Assembly.”

     

    Country visits

    So, yes, UN experts need an invitation — and can request for one — from states to visit.

    Countries issue “standing invitations” to signify they are prepared to receive a visit from Special Rapporteurs.

    What does it mean that Special Rapporteurs “act independently of governments and as such are free to circumvent sovereign nations and democratically elected governments and policies”?

    They are not answerable to governments precisely because they are independent. Meaning, governments are not shown their notes (security of witnesses, etc). Governments do not sign off on their reports — because they are not employees of government.

    However, there are mechanisms to follow, including the fact that they do talk extensively with government. “At the end of their visits, special procedures’ mandate-holders engage in dialogue with the State on their findings and recommendations and present a report to the Human Rights Council,” says the OHCHR.

    There’s nothing sinister about Special Rapporteurs.

    At the invitation of States, mandate-holders carry out country visits to analyse the human rights situation at the national level. Some countries have issued “standing invitations” to the Special Procedures, which means that they are prepared to receive a visit from any thematic mandate-holder. As of 1 January 2015, 109 Member States and one non-Member Observer State have extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures. At the end of their visits, special procedures’ mandate-holders engage in dialogue with the State on their findings and recommendations and present a report to the Human Rights Council.

    Read more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Introduction.aspx

 

‘Dialogue’

UN experts newThere’s absolutely no reason to go ballistic over UN experts. Of course, they will speak up against human rights violations. That is their mandate. Of course, local groups with grave concerns about the rights situations here can approach UN experts.

There is no reason to be scared of these experts. They won’t allow themselves to be used by any political party or any foreign power out to rock Digong. That’s where you — believers — can come in and clearly show why you support the President.

President Duterte has strong support — 90% of the population. I oppose many of his methods on the war on drugs but recognize that majority support it, right or wrong.

Disabuse yourself of the notion that “dialogue” needs to be strictly internal.
When you impose those conditions, it’s no longer called dialogue. Only North Korea and a few other weird countries have that kind of set up and their citizens continuously try to find ways around the blockade.

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