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HRW: Philippines must drop political charges against Duterte critic

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] on Saturday issued a call to Philippine authorities [HRW report] to drop political charges against Senator Leila de Lima, who has spoken against President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs. The charges brought against de Lima, as well as her driver and several unnamed individuals, are for violation of section 5 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which prohibits the "sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of illegal drugs." If de Lima were found guilty on the current charges, which HRW called "an act of political vindictiveness," she would face 12 years to life in prison. Kine was emphatic that these charges show the Duterte administration's drug crackdown is a danger to not only those targeted, but also the criminal justice and political systems. De Lima said domestic and foreign lawmakers would need to stand up and "denounce the Duterte administration's disregard for basic human rights." De Lima is alleged to have accepted money from drug lords and facilitated drug-trading operations while she was the justice secretary under the former president. De Lima has been the most outspoken critic of Duterte's war on drugs, particularly over the 7000 extrajudicial killings resulting from the recent crackdown. In August, de Lima headed hearings in the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, investigating these killings under Duterte's regime. Her actions have since incited various attacks on her character from the Duterte administration and pro-Duterte senators.

During Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign last year, he had stated 100,000 people would die [Guardian report] in his crackdown on crime. In December the UN rights chief urged [JURIST report] a murder investigation into Duterte after Duterte stated that he had killed three suspected criminals while he was mayor. In October the International Criminal Court [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the rising occurrence of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in connection with the ongoing war on drugs. In September Duterte declared a "state of lawlessness" [JURIST report] in the Philippines, which would allow police and military personnel to frisk individuals and search cars. In August Duterte named [JURIST report] 150 serving and former state officials connected to the nation's illegal drug trade and ordered them to either surrender to the authorities or risk being hunted down. Duterte has stated that he disregards criticisms from the UN and human rights groups. Also in August Duterte threatened to withdraw [JURIST report] the country from the UN following criticisms against his controversial crackdown on illegal drugs.

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