Photo credit: National Union of Peoples' Lawyers

The following statement of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and many associated organizations and individuals was released on Monday, 27 April in conjunction with the petition filed by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers of the Philippines, an IADL member association, with the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

The NUPL is urging the release of prisoners and detainees in the Philippines and has filed 22 petitions for the release of political prisoners and other detained persons who are vulnerable to COVID-19. 

The spread of the infectious novel coronavirus in jails and detention facilities all over the world would be irreparably disastrous if not immediately prevented. We are witness to the atrocious condition of prisoners who have been forgotten by society.

It is no secret for instance that the Philippine penological system is in abysmal state. The subhuman, overcrowding and unhygienic situation in these facilities would inevitably expose vulnerable persons to the real threat of acquiring the infectious disease.

Such worrisome circumstances have led to the filing of an urgent petition by groups which include our colleagues from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) for the temporary release of elderly, sickly, and other vulnerable prisoners during the pandemic before the Philippine Supreme Court.

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), which has assisted and campaigned for political prisoners and against unjust imprisonment and repression worldwide strongly supports the temporary release of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With scientific and medical experts estimating that more individuals will be infected in the coming days, we at IADL firnly urge Philippine authorities and respectfully ask the Supreme Court as amici to urgently and favorably act on the petition and undertake parallel steps to release these prisoners.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has urged governments to protect the health of prisoners. She has raised concerns over the “potentially catastrophic” consequences during the pandemic. Bachelet stressed that, “Now, more than ever, governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.”

Countries such as Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, and United States have reportedly responded to such calls and have released a number of prisoners on humanitarian considerations. Some governments have created ad hoc bodies such as a prisoner release committee to immediately formulate and implement guidelines.

During these extraordinary, nay worse of times, the courts who act decisively and unequivocally with justice, equity and humaneness can be the best at times. #

Jeanne Mirer
IADL President  (US)

Jan Fermon
IADL Secretary General (Belgium)

Prof. Marjorie Cohn
National Lawyers Guild Past President (US)

Ukrainian Association of Democratic Lawyers

Hasan Tarique Chowdhury
Advocate, Supreme Court (Bangladesh)

Jo Dereymaeker
Progress Lawyers Network (Belgium)

Lies Michielsen
Progress Lawyers Network (Belgium)

Jun Sasamoto
Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association and
Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (Japan)

Mieke Van Laer
Progress Lawyers Network (Belgium)

Fabio Marcelli
Italian Association of Democratic Lawyers  (Italy)

Evelyn Durmayer
IADL representative at the UN in Vienna  (Austria)

Madalena Santos
Portuguese Association of Democratic Lawyers (Portugal)

Charlotte Kates
National Lawyers Guild  (US)

Osamu Niikura
Professor emeritus at Aoyama Gakuin University  (Japan)

Krish Govender
National Association of Democratic Lawyers (South Africa)

Jan Buelens
Professor Labour Law, University of Antwerp-Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium)

Thomas Schmidt
Secretary General, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (Germany)

Vanessa Ramos
President, Asociación Americana de Juristas (New York)

Luís Carlos Moro
General Secretary of American Association of Jurists (Brasil)

Brazilian Association of Jurists for Democracy – “ABJD”

Beth S. Lyons
IADL Alternate Representative to UN  (New York)

Elena Vazquez Nuñez
President of the Left Forum Lawyers-Network of Democratic Lawyers (Spain)

Selçuk Kozağaçlı
Progressive Lawyers Association (CHD), Turkey

Şerife Ceren Uysal
Progressive Lawyers Association (CHD), Turkey

Av. Fatma Demirer and colleagues
Association of Lawyers for Freedom (Turkey)

Prof. Bill Bowring
International Secretary, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers (England)

Declan Owens
Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers (UK)

Margo Munro Kerr
Maya Thomas-Davis
Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers (UK)

Kerry McLean
National Lawyers Guild (US)

Judy Somberg
attorney, NLG International Committee (US)

Kathleen Johnson
National Lawyers Guild (US)