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Philippines: Granting Leila de Lima bail is 'step towards justice'

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De Lima targeted by the government for her criticism of the murderous ‘war on drugs’ and other human rights violations

‘She should have never spent even a single day in detention’ - Butch Olano

In response to the news that the court granted former Philippine Senator Leila de Lima bail for the third and last drug-related charge against her, Butch Olano, Amnesty International’s Philippines Director, said:

“This is a welcome development and a step towards justice.

“Leila has been detained for nearly seven years during which she was subjected to verbal and physical attacks. Evidence, including various witnesses retracting their statements implicating her in the illegal drug trade, shows that the charges were fabricated. She should have never spent even a single day in detention.

“This last remaining drug case against her must be dismissed and those behind her arbitrary detention and other violations of her human rights must be brought to justice.

“We also call on the Marcos administration to ensure her safety as she regains temporary freedom. The government must guarantee her safety, security and protection as she remains the target of vilification and threats.”

Staunch critic of human rights violations

De Lima has been detained at the headquarters of the Philippine National Police since her arrest on 24 February 2017 on drug-related charges.

As a human rights activist and former Senator, she has been one of the staunchest critics of the human rights violations under the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte. Since her arrest, Amnesty alongside many other organisations have repeatedly said that the charges against her were fabricated and that the testimonies by witnesses against her were manufactured.

The authorities arrested de Lima after she sought to investigate violations committed in the context of the so-called “war on drugs” under the former Duterte administration, including the extrajudicial execution of thousands of people suspected of using or selling drugs, which Amnesty has said may amount to crimes against humanity. As in the case of de Lima, there has been almost no justice or accountability for the victims of these abuses and their families.

Court proceedings against de Lima in the last six years have been marked by undue delays, including the repeated failure of prosecution witnesses to appear in court and changes in judges handling the cases against her. In 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the detention of de Lima was arbitrary because of the lack of legal basis and the non-observance of international norms relating to the right to a fair trial.

The arbitrary detention of de Lima reflects the broader context of increasing impunity for human rights violations in the Philippines. These violations include killings, threats and harassment of political activists, human rights defenders, members of the media and other targeted groups.

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