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UN rapporteur urges release of political prisoners amid COVID-19 pandemic

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations' special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, on Friday called for the release of political prisoners, human rights defenders and those facing "ridiculous" charges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The first prisoners that should be released are all political prisoners, are the prisoners of conscience, are people who are being imprisoned for ridiculous charges such as breaking a curfew, are people who should not be imprisoned in the first place because they have not been charged," Callamard said at the "#NoLockdownOnRights" webinar.

"All of these prisoners should be released as a matter of priority so that the spread of the virus in the prison must and is reduced," she added.

Callamard made the call as UN agencies, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the World Health Organization also demanded that the population in prisons be reduced.

"We have pointed out that this will be the only way we can address the spread and the multiplication of the virus in the prison," Callamard said.

The UN rapporteur added she is happy to share sources of different experts pointing the need to release those "prisoners of conscience, political prisoners, human rights defenders."

Senator Leila De Lima, a staunch Duterte critic, has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since 2017 for alleged involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prisons.

The senator has repeatedly denied the allegations saying the charges filed against her were fabricated. -NB, GMA News