Human Rights Commissioner on the situation in the Philippines

16.03.2017 - Press release

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (16 March) on the situation in the Philippines:

On 7 March 2017, the Philippine House of Representatives passed a bill to reimpose the death penalty and passed it on to the Philippine Senate for approval. I am deeply worried by this, because ever since it signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Philippines has been considered a close partner of those who, like the Federal Government, reject this inhumane punishment under all circumstances.

This situation is highly regrettable, particularly in view of the close cooperation between Germany and the Philippines in the United Nations, for example in the fight against human trafficking, as well as on poverty reduction and international climate policy.

Nearly 8000 people have already been killed since President Duterte began his “war on drugs”. Against this background, I see an urgent need for a visit by Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. I call on the Government of the Philippines to withdraw the conditions it has set and that to date have prevented Ms Callamard from conducting a country visit.

Furthermore, Philippine Senator Leila de Lima has been in custody since 24 February. I demand that she be given the opportunity for a speedy and fair trial. She is among the strongest critics of the “war on drugs” and the thousands of killings that have been committed in this connection, along with the suspension of key aspects of the rule of law in the Philippines. The Department of Justice, which she herself headed between 2010 and 2015, recently filed illegal drugs trafficking charges against her. As a result, she has been in custody since 24 February 2017.

As long as Senator de Lima has not been convicted, she must be able to exercise her mandate. In particular, the Philippines must ensure her safety in detention. Senator de Lima strongly criticised President Duterte’s “war on drugs” from the outset. I call on the President to put aside personal enmity and to instead focus on the future of the country.

This future includes trade with the EU. In this regard, I welcome the clear statement made by EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in Manila. She underscored that trade incentives are not to be taken for granted, but that the EU also ties these to the observance of human rights standards.

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