Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has thanked veteran Australian legislator for his urgent call on the Australian government to impose travel ban and property-related sanctions against human rights violators around the world, including the Philippines.
De Lima, a known prisoner of conscience, penned a thank-you note addressed to Hon. Chris Hayes, the chief opposition enforcer of the Labor Party, for delivering an impassioned speech about the unabated human rights abuses in Asia-Pacific region.
“I am writing to express my appreciation for your continued and unflinching commitment to raise awareness of human rights issues in my country, particularly with respect to my three-year arbitrary detention and the unabated summary executions of Filipino men, women and children resulting from the Duterte government’s ‘war on drugs’”, she wrote to Hayes.
“The discourse, interest and monitoring of parliaments abroad and the international human rights community on the deteriorating human rights situation in my country and the absence of accountability of those responsible for these violations have served as further impetus in, and strengthened my resolve to continue with my fight for the respect of human rights and the upholding of the rule of law, despite and inspite of my detention,” she added.
In his speech before the Australian House of Representatives, Hayes denounced how Mr. Duterte continues to act with impunity even after the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) called for an independent and transparent inquiry in the implementation of the Philippine government’s all-out war on drugs.
He cited the unabated extrajudicial and summary executions under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that resulted in the death of more than 20,000 suspected drug offenders, including innocent bystanders, such as children and women.
Last June, at least 18 countries, including Australia, approved the UNHRC resolution calling for an independent investigation on alleged EJKs in the Philippines.
Hayes also cited before the members of the Australian Parliament about the protracted political persecution being experienced by De Lima whose unjust detention has already entered its fourth year last Feb. 24.
“The way [Mr. Duterte] deals with many of his detractors is similar to the case we see with Senator Leila de Lima. She’s an elected senator of the Philippines parliament, but she continues to be detained on trumped up charges, certainly politically motivated,” Hayes pointed out.
“Senator de Lima’s commitment to democracy, justice and respect for the rule of law is certainly commendable and, in these circumstances, most courageous,” he added.
The US Senate recently passed a resolution urging the US Department of State to apply the Global Magnitsky Act against Philippine government officials responsible for De Lima’s unjust detention as well as for extrajudicial killings in the country.
Hayes said Australia should also pass a similar law to curb human rights violators in the region, most especially to countries which Australia has a strategic and humanitarian relationship with.
“I would like to [draw] attention to a mechanism which is gathering momentum internationally and also proving effective in promoting human rights through its use of foreign policy and is currently being investigated as part of an inquiry by the subcommittee of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade,” Hayes said.
“This mechanism is premised on the use of targeted sanctions against serious human rights violators abroad, including issues of visa bans and asset freezes. This is not a new concept, but certainly one which has been enacted in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom and is seen to be part of what is known as the Global Magnitsky movement,” he added.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte administration, commended Hayes’ commitment and courage and said that she is looking forward to when Australia passes its own version of the Global Magnitsky Act.
“It is heartwarming to note that there are efforts in the Parliament of Australia, which are being spearheaded by your goodself and like-minded parliamentarians, to pass a national legislation that will hold human rights abusers and corrupt officials accountable for their actions,” she said.
“The Global Magnitsky Movement is gaining momentum, and it is heartening to learn that Australia, known for its record on human rights protection and promotion, is showing the world that respect for human rights and the rule of law cannot and should not be compromised,” she added. (senate.gov.ph)