Statement of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers

Justice and Humaneness in the Worst of Times

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 Durmeyer, 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)