Stranger than fiction

“I hope we will be the last to experience this.” – Reina Mae Nasino to Baby River

It is easy sometimes to think that the rights of prisoners have little to do with us – that they have somehow exchanged their rights for a life of crime.

This is wrong on two counts.

Firstly, everyone has the same rights and they can never be taken away, no matter where you are, or what you may have done.

Secondly, just because you are in prison, it does not mean you are guilty of a crime – if you were lucky enough to have a trial, it may not have been a fair one.

Reina Mae Nasino and Baby River are victims of a retributive system, one that is facilitated by procedural loopholes and have not been properly addressed in the Philippine justice system. These loopholes have set precedence to other violations in the treatment of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL).

The Philippine authorities should review cases of people in pre-trial detention, ensuring minimum standards of protections are met, including fair and prompt trial for political prisoners, and immediate and unconditional release for all prisoners of conscience.

Authorities should not waste another minute deliberating whether PDLs must be given the rights already accorded to them in international law. At the universal level, these minimum guarantees are already included under the principles of protecting PDLs, and are enshrined in Philippine laws.