IBAHRI urges President Duterte to ensure due process of law in the Philippines

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the extrajudicial killings associated with the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ and urges him to ensure due process of law and protect the human rights of all in the Philippines. Further, amid reports of threatening remarks by the President to shoot human rights officials and kill judges and lawyers, whom he perceives to be conspiring with drug offenders, the IBAHRI calls for President Duterte to respect and uphold the independence of the legal profession.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, commented:‘The IBAHRI is aghast at the mounting death toll ascribed to extrajudicial killings subsequent to President Duterte’s declaration of a “war on drugs”. We call for an end to these actions and for arrests to be made and due process to be followed. In relation to vocal attacks on members of the judiciary, lawyers and human rights officers, we call on the President to desist making public threats. It is particularly disturbing that he is naming individual judges and legal professionals, on “narco-lists”, whom he alleges have links to drug syndicates. In so doing, he knowingly puts at risk the personal safety of any listed individual and undermines a fundamental principle of the rule of law: the presumption of innocence.’

She added: ‘Crucially, judicial independence is also undermined as the threats are likely to have a chilling effect on the legal profession, stymieing its ability to function independently. There are human rights violations at every turn.’

President Duterte has been vociferous in his criticism of judges and lawyers, and recently has publicly displayed an updated ‘narco-list’ that includes lawmakers, judges and uniformed personnel suspected of being involved in the drug trade in the Philippines. Despite doubts being cast over the list when one judge was found to be already dead and others dismissed, retired, or without jurisdiction over drug cases, President Duterte threatened that the list would be a ‘death certificate’ for those linked to the drug trade. Additionally, he has warned that the list will be extended to include lawyers of alleged drug dealers, and prosecutors whom he blames for causing the dismissal of cases against the suspects.

Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell, IBAHRI Co-Chair, said: ‘The most recent public announcement of the ‘’narco-list’’ has occurred during an intensification of the ‘’war on drugs’’, decried by the international community for rampant extrajudicial killings. Against a backdrop of such violence, it is extremely important that the organs administering justice are able to operate effectively, without fear of retribution, in order to ensure the due process of law. The IBAHRI refers President Duterte to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which state that the judiciary and lawyers should be able to function without any threats, intimidation, or improper interference. We strongly urge President Duterte to put an end to the continued assault on the rule of law.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of the Philippines sent a letter to President Duterte following his first announcement of the ‘narco-list’, expressing concerns about the ‘source and basis’ of the allegations and the threat to ‘constitutional order’.
  2. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies, it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the IBA’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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