UN rights body urged to hold PH 'accountable for abuses' vs De Lima, rights defenders

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2020 10:33 AM

Supporters of Senator Leila De Lima run in indignation of her 1000th day in detainment over illegal drug charges believed to be trumped up and politically motivated in Quezon City on November 20, 2019. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A global watchdog on Thursday urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to hold the Philippines accountable for "its abuses" against detained Sen. Leila de Lima and other human rights defenders.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and FORUM-ASIA, in a statement, cited the Philippine government's "broader attacks" against human rights defenders, particularly women.

“Under the Duterte administration, women human rights defenders have repeatedly faced state-sanctioned intimidation and reprisals,” FORUM-ASIA executive director Mukunda Kattel said.

“We have also observed the intensification of gender-based attacks, such as sexual harassment and the use of dehumanizing and misogynist language to silence women human rights defenders who continue to push for greater accountability.”

The groups cited government's cases against Rappler chief Maria Ressa, a "smear campaign" against Vice President Leni Robredo, who was recently cleared of sedition charges over an alleged plot to oust Duterte, and harassment against Karapatan's secretary-general Cristina Palabay.

The groups also urged Philippine officials to immediately release the senator who has been detained for nearly 3 years over alleged links to the illegal drug trade, and drop the "politically motivated" charges against her.

“The UN Human Rights Council at its June session should hold the Philippine government accountable for its abuses against the senator and other human rights defenders in the country," HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said.

"The Philippine government has grossly mistreated Senator de Lima so that other whistleblowers and rights monitors will not dare expose the abuses and injustices of Duterte’s ‘drug war.'"

The rights groups said Philippine authorities have not made any substantial progress in court proceedings for De Lima's cases.

“Every day that Senator de Lima remains detained is another day of injustice, not only against her but against all Filipinos whose rights – to life, liberty, health, and due process – have been trampled on by a violent and repressive government,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International regional director for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

The US earlier imposed sanctions against government officials behind De Lima's imprisonment as it applied the Global Magnitsky Act which penalizes human rights violators worldwide.