De Lima: US sanctions vs rights violators as ‘most wonderful Christmas blessing’

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed elation over the recent passage into law of the United States 2020 Appropriations Bill which includes amendments imposing an entry ban to government officials responsible for her wrongful imprisonment.

De Lima, a prisoner of conscience, said the imposition of sanctions in the approved appropriation bill is a “most wonderful Christmas blessing” as it signifies a solid recognition by the US government that she is a clear victim of political persecution.

“My gratitude to the US Congress is overwhelming for including in the final and approved Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2020, now signed into law by the US President, the provision restricting the travel to the US of those responsible for and party to my persecution and imprisonment,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 683.

“This latest development signals the fact that impunity cannot last and that one way or another, justice will catch up with those who choose to do injustice to others,” added the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime.

Last Dec. 20, US President Donald Trump signed into law the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which includes a provision banning the entry of Philippine government officials involved in De Lima’s wrongful detention.

The provision in the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill was introduced by US Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy last Sept. 27 and adopted at the committee level.

It stated that the US Secretary of State shall apply the subsection on the prohibition of entry “to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment” of De Lima, who has been detained on trumped-up drug charges since February 24, 2017.

The US Senate bill also sought the same prohibition on the entry of certain “officials of the governments of Turkey, Egypt or Saudi Arabia, relative to Mustafa Kassem, an American citizen imprisoned by the government of Egypt, and other cases of wrongful detention of a locally employed staff of a U.S. diplomatic mission or a U.S. citizen national.”

De Lima explained that systematic and widespread violation of human rights, similar to what people are experiencing under the Duterte regime, must be condemned and punished with sanctions by the community of nations because it is not an exercise of sovereignty or independence.

“It is only a matter of time before the European Union, Canada, and other nations follow suit in imposing sanctions on Duterte, his officials and their cohorts. Human rights is fighting back! Accountability is coming! A most wonderful Christmas blessing! Thank you, US! Thank you, dear God!” she said.

De Lima pointed out that the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act complements the recent US Senate Resolution (SR) 142 unanimously approved by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee which calls for sanctions against her persecutors and other human rights violators under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (or GloMag).

“More than denying travel visas to subject PH officials, GloMag also imposes the freezing and forfeiture of their US assets, properties, and bank accounts. Once this is also implemented, we will witness how the world of human rights violators in the Philippine government increasingly shrinks,” she said.

“This will teach them that human rights is not a domestic concern, but a universal interest that affects the security of all nations, regardless of where the violations occur,” she added. (30)

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