De Lima thanks UN officials for concern over her plight, human rights situation in PH


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has thanked United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for raising concern over her continued political persecution by the Duterte administration and the worsening human rights situation in the country.

In a letter dated Sept. 15, De Lima told Guterres that she greatly appreciates the effort of the UN Office of the Secretary-General to push for her immediate release and speak out against the government’s utter disregard for human rights here.

“I write to acknowledge with thanks and appreciation the Annual Report of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the High Commissioner and the Secretary General in the on-going 42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council being held in Geneva as of date,” she said.

“I specially thank your good office for continuously taking interest and concern over the human rights situation in my country, to include my current situation as mentioned in Annex II of the report on ‘information on alleged cases included in follow up to previous reports,'” she added.

De Lima also sent a separate letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and UNHRC President Coly Seck to express her appreciation for their continued concern for her plight and the human rights situation in the country.

In his 2019 Report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Guterres outlined updates to different instances of harassment involving human rights groups, indigenous peoples’ representatives, and rights defenders in the country from 2017-2018.

Guterres listed “acts of intimidation” against human rights defenders who have cooperated with the UN and its representatives, including the unjust detention of De Lima whose incarceration has been deemed “arbitrary” and “politically motivated”, particularly by the United Nations Human Rights Council–Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNHRC-WGAD).

He also cited in his report the UNHRC-WGAD opinion calling for the immediate release of the former justice secretary and an investigation into her detention more than two years ago.

Considering the serious breaches of human rights and internationally recognized standards committed in her arrest and arbitrary detention, De Lima pointed out that the Philippine government is plainly wrong to admonish the UNHRC or other UN officials to not to comment on, express concerns and/or issue opinions about the matter.

She cited the UNHRC-WGAD Opinion which called on the Philippine government to free her from illegal detention and accord her an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, including her reinstatement in the positions from which she was ousted in August 2018.

“Based on its response, the Philippine government continues to disregard the opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the call of several special procedures mandate holders for my immediate and unconditional release,” she said.

Amid the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, De Lima said the responsibility to protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of every Filipino is a big challenge and struggle not only for her but also for the thousands of human rights defenders working towards the same goal.

Yet, De Lima maintained that the Filipinos “are encouraged and strengthened by the support of the international human rights community that continues to issue opinions, reports and advisories on the Philippine human rights situation and let its voice heard and heard loudly by all the peoples of the world.”

“Being at the helm of the UN with authority to steer the agenda of the whole organization, your voice for the cause of human rights, in general and the human rights situation in my country in particular, is undeniably indispensable to pave the way for the protection, promotion and fulfillment of all human rights for all,” she added.

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