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Philippines: UN experts urge release of Senator Leila De Lima after four years in pre-trial detention

24 February 2021

GENEVA (24 February 2021) – UN experts* today reiterated the call for the immediate release of Philippines Senator Leila De Lima, who has been held in pre-trial detention since 2017.

In August 2018, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in its Opinion No. 61/2018 that the detention of Senator De Lima was arbitrary given the absence of a legal basis. It was also established that Senator De Lima’s detention resulted from her exercise of the right to political participation, freedoms of opinion and expression and thought and conscience; and that it was imposed through a procedure in which the basic guarantees of a fair trial were not respected.

The Working Group also considered that Senator De Lima was detained on discriminatory grounds, as she was targeted for her political opinion, as well as her status as a human rights defender and as a woman. The Working Group called upon the Government to immediately release Senator De Lima, and provide compensation and other reparations.   

“As today marks four years of Senator De Lima being arbitrarily deprived of her liberty, we urge the Government of the Philippines to give effect to the Opinion, including by releasing Senator De Lima and reinstating her in the positions from which she was ousted,” the experts said.

The experts welcomed her acquittal on one of three charges on 17 February 2021, but noted with concern that she continues to face two other charges and remains in pre-trial detention.


The experts: Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Mumba MalilaSeong-Phil HongWorking Group on Arbitrary Detention; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression; Dubravka Simonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Mr. Diego Garcia-Sayan, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Dorothy Estrada TanckIvana Radačić, and Meskerem Geset Techane, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Philippines

For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms. Lucie Viersma (+41 22 928 9380 / [email protected]) or write to [email protected].

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 7578 / [email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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