Three witnesses against prisoner of conscience Senator Leila de Lima have retracted their testimonies against her. They include a former government official who remains a prosecution witness and whose testimony was cited by a court in deciding to proceed with trial. In their latest statements, all three said they were coerced and threatened by the police and high-level government officials to falsely implicate the senator in the illegal drug trade. As it becomes clear that the charges against her were fabricated from the start, these charges must now be dropped, and de Lima must be released immediately and unconditionally.
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Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra
Department of Justice
Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila 10020
Republic of the Philippines
Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez
Embassy of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
Phone: 202 467 9300 I Fax: 202 328 7614
Email: [email protected]
Dear Secretary Guevarra,
I write to urge your office to drop all charges against prisoner of conscience Senator Leila de Lima, and work toward her immediate and unconditional release. The senator, a staunch human rights defender, has been detained since 2017 over what now more clearly appears to be false and politically-motivated charges. This gross injustice against her must end now.
I am appalled to hear that three witnesses have recanted their testimonies against her, citing pressure, coercion and threats from the police and high-level officials to falsely and maliciously implicate her in the illegal drug trade. What is most disturbing is that one of these witnesses is currently a prosecution witness whose original testimony has been cited as the reason for the continuation of the trial against her.
The continued detention of Senator de Lima clearly violates her right to presumption of innocence – which is absolute and can never be derogated from, restricted, or limited – and other fair trial guarantees. For over five years, she has been a victim of vicious attacks and political persecution for her human rights work, including for her work to investigate abuses during the “war on drugs”. She should not have been detained in the first place, but her immediate release is the least that the Philippine government could do to rectify this grave injustice.
I therefore call on your office to:
- Drop all charges against Senator de Lima now and ensure her immediate and unconditional release;
- Conduct thorough, independent and impartial investigations into those responsible for her arbitrary detention and ensure full accountability for the years of human rights violations she has had to endure; and
- Promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations by witnesses that they were coerced by senior officials to commit perjury, while ensuring their safety and security in light of the gravity of such allegations and the possible involvement of high-level officials.