U.S. Senate panel OKs ban on PH officials in De Lima case, urges dropping charges vs Ressa

Aika Rey

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U.S. Senate panel OKs ban on PH officials in De Lima case, urges dropping charges vs Ressa


(UPDATED) The US travel ban and the freezing of assets would cover Philippine officials and security forces responsible for extrajudicial killings and the detention of Senator Leila de Lima

HIGH SECURITY. Dozens of police escorts Senator Leila de Lima back to the vehicle. Senate PRIB photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The United States (US) Senate foreign relations committee unanimously approved on Wednesday, December 11, a resolution that would sanction human rights offenders on Senator Leila de Lima’s detention and extrajudicial killings in the country.

US Senate Resolution 142 invoked the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act in the amended version of the measure. The US resolution covered the following:

  • Philippine officials and security forces responsible for extrajudicial killings in the Philippines;
  • Philippine officials responsible for “orchestrating the arrest and prolonged detention of Senator De Lima”.

The US resolution also condemns the “harassment, arrest, and unjustified judicial proceedings” against journalists and the media, particularly Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

The US Senate urged the Philippine government to guarantee the freedom of the press and “drop all charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.”

The resolution also called on President Donald Trump to ensure that the security assistance provided to the Philippine National Police is “fully consistent with the human rights conditions” mandated in the US law.

The Magnitsky Act was named after Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky who died in police custody in Moscow after he was tortured and denied medical help.

Two laws were passed in this series of measures during former US president Barack Obama’s administration, with an end view of issuing sanctions against gross human rights violators.

The first one was the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act that targets Russian offenders by issuing travel bans and freezing of assets. It was later extended to violators outside of Russia under the Global Magnitsky Act.

In a tweet, US Democrat Senator Edward Markey (Massachusetts), the author of the resolution, said that the passage of the measure “demonstrates broad support for accountability in [De Lima’s] case and others.”

The resolution was filed by Markey and 4 other US senators – Senators Marco Rubio (Florida), Richard Durbin (Illinois), Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), and Chris Coons (Delaware) – in April this year, urging the Philippine government to drop the charges against De Lima and Ressa.

In September, the US Senate committee on appropriations first approved the resolution, backing the banning of Philippine government officials involved in the case of De Lima.

In a statement on Thursday, December 12, De Lima thanked her counterparts in the US Senate for passing the measure.

“I’ve believed that standing strong for one’s convictions and fighting always for what is true and just for human rights and humanity have many friends around the globe,” De Lima said.

Malacañang earlier called the move a “brazen” intrusion into the Philippine sovereignty and insisted the De Lima case is “not politically motivated.”

De Lima, a fierce critic of the Duterte administration, has been imprisoned for over two years now over drug charges, which, she asserts, were fabricated by the government.  (READ: De Lima in jail: ‘I never imagined Duterte would be this vindictive’)  – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.