Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (23 February) on the first anniversary of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima’s arrest:
Philippine Senator Leila de Lima has worked to promote the cause of human rights with extraordinary determination and integrity for many years. I am very concerned that she was arrested a year ago and has been in custody since then. The allegations against her leave many questions unanswered and have yet to be examined in judicial proceedings.
As Chair of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, Leila de Lima conducted inquiries between 2008 and 2010 into a series of killings allegedly perpetrated by the so called Davao Death Squad in the city of Davao. When then Mayor of Davao Rodrigo Duterte started his term as President of the Philippines in June 2016 with what has been called his war on drugs, de Lima, in her capacity as Senator, spoke out strongly against the brutal approach taken in the fight against drug related crime.
Since voicing her criticism, Senator de Lima, like other human rights defenders in the Philippines, has been subjected to serious threats from the President, as well as to a targeted campaign to tarnish her reputation. Attempts of this kind to intimidate those who stand up for the principles enshrined in the constitution have no place in a democratic system and damage the Philippines’ international standing.
The charges against Senator de Lima must be investigated without delay by a court in a transparent manner respecting all rule of law principles. Furthermore, it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure Leila de Lima’s physical well being and that she is free to exercise her rights and duties as a Senator.
In July 2016, Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, who previously served as the Philippines’ Secretary of Justice and chaired the country’s Commission on Human Rights, launched a Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings associated with the war on drugs conducted by the Government of President Duterte. According to official figures, just under 4000 people were killed between June 2016 and October 2017 in police operations in what became known as the war on drugs; human rights organisations estimate the number of fatalities to be over 12,000.
On 24 February 2017, Senator de Lima was arrested on drug trafficking charges. For the past year, she has been held in custody at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame in Quezon city.
The Inter Parliamentary Union and international human rights organisations have criticised de Lima’s detention as politically motivated and have questioned the credibility of the accusations made against her.