Sen. Leila de Lima (Photo from her Facebook page)
MANILA, Philippines — Human rights monitors under the United Nations are calling on the Marcos administration to not only free Sen. Leila de Lima after more than six years of “arbitrary detention” but also “provide compensation and other reparations” for her ordeal that began during the Duterte administration.
In a statement issued from Geneva, Switzerland, through the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), 14 rights rapporteurs and experts expressed alarm over the recent local court ruling that denied De Lima’s petition for bail on her third and last drug trafficking case.
THERE was malice in the way The Judge hid…
Philip Lustre Jr.
THERE was malice in the way The Judge hid the story about his brother’s participation in the Leila de Lima’s persecution. Whether there’s a ground for disbarment is for lawyers to settle. Lawyers’ game. Priority is for LdL’s lawyers to have her freedom – temporary of permanent.
De Lima, a staunch critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs and his earlier human rights record as Davao City mayor, was already cleared in the first two cases in February 2021 and in May this year, respectively. The former justice secretary and human rights commission chair strongly denied the charges, dismissing them as political vendetta, and had gained supporters that included international civil society groups and legislators.
“We are deeply concerned that after six years of arbitrary detention, Leila de Lima will now continue to be detained after her bail application was denied on June 7, 2023,” said the statement posted on Friday (Saturday in Manila) on the OHCHR website.
The rapporteurs were referring to the ruling issued by Judge Romeo Buenaventura of Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 256. The bail denial drew outrage from De Lima’s political allies and also prompted a rare statement from the Supreme Court clarifying that the RTC ruling should not be considered a final determination of guilt.
In another twist in the trial, Buenaventura on Friday inhibited himself from the case after three of De Lima’s co-accused called for his recusal, citing his brother’s earlier involvement as a lawyer who once gave advice to one of their accusers.
“It is high time for the administration of President Marcos Jr. to close this case once and for all, provide compensation and other reparations, and investigate the circumstances that allowed this to happen in the first place,” the rapporteurs said. “We have long called for the immediate release of Leila de Lima.”
They noted that De Lima’s legal battle and detention was a “result of her personal beliefs and public statements” on the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.
Among the UN experts behind the joint statement were Priya Gopalan, the chair-rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Matthew Gillett, vice chair on communications; Ganna Yudkivska, vice chair on follow-up; and members Miriam Estrada-Castillo and Mumba Malila.
UN special rapporteurs Irene Khan (working group on freedom of opinion and expression), Reem Amsalem (violence against women and girls), Morris Tidball-Binz (extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions) and Margaret Satterthwaite (independence of judges and lawyers).
Also joining them were the working group on discrimination against women and girls: chair Dorothy Estrada Tanck; vice chair Ivana Radačić, and members Elizabeth Broderick, Meskerem Geset Techance, and Melissa Upreti.
De Lima is one of the high-profile figures whose continuing detention has been questioned by the UN rights experts and rapporteurs.
In Russia, they have called on Moscow to drop the criminal charges against human rights defender Oleg Orlov, one of the leaders of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights organization Memorial.
In India, they also sought the unconditional release of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez. In December 2020, amid a coronavirus outbreak at London’s Belmarsh prison, a UN special rapporteur on torture appealed to British authorities to release WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or to place him under guarded house arrest while undergoing extradition proceedings to the United States.
—WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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