Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on authorities in the Philippines to immediately drop ‘politically motivated’ charges against senator Leila de Lima, ‘one of the few lawmakers openly critical’ of president Duterte’s violent ‘war on drugs’.
Charges have been filed against de Lima (pictured below) along with her driver and others for alleged violations of the country’s drug laws, and if convicted she faces between 12 years and life in prison. The charges claim that de Lima accepted money from ‘drug lords’ and facilitated drug dealing while serving as justice secretary under the country’s former president. However, De Lima has previously conducted investigations into Duterte’s involvement in extrajudicial killings and links to death squads, and has also chaired senate committee hearings on the methods used in his crackdown on suspected drug offenders. It has been alleged that testimonies against her have been obtained through bribery.
Although the president recently announced a temporary suspension of his ‘war on drugs’ in order to address problems of police corruption (DDN, February, page 5), more than 7,000 people are estimated to have been killed since his election last year.
‘The prosecution of senator Leila de Lima is an act of political vindictiveness that debases the rule of law in the Philippines,’ said HRW’s deputy Asia director, Phelim Kine. ‘The Duterte administration seems intent on using the courts to punish prominent critics of its murderous “war on drugs”. The politically motivated case against de Lima shows how Duterte’s “war on drugs” threatens not only the thousands of people targeted, but the criminal justice and political systems. It’s more important than ever that concerned lawmakers and foreign governments step up to denounce the Duterte administration’s disregard for basic human rights.’