Special Rapporteur Irene Khan meets with Leila de Lima

Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan met with recently-freed former senator Leila de Lima during her recent visit to the Philippines at the U.N. House in Mandaluyong.

Khan, a Bangladeshi, was in the Philippines Jan. 23 to Feb.2. She met with De Lima on Jan. 30.

Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan meets with recently-released former senator Leila de Lima. Photo by Bullit Marquez

De Lima, who had served as justice secretary and chair of the Philippine Human Rights Commission was in prison for seven years on alleged involvement on drug trafficking during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte. A number of the charges have been dismissed after witnesses recanted. She is currently out on bail on one case.

Khan also met with three political prisoners in Tacloban jail: 25-year old journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who has been in detention in a Tacloban jail for four years; human rights worker Alexander Philip Abinguna, and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines staff Marielle Domequil .

Khan’s Philippine visit was “to examine, in the spirit of cooperation and dialogue, the situation of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the context of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur,” a primer from Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights states.

During her 10-day visit, Khan met with various groups including government officials, civil society representatives, journalists, human rights defenders, national human rights institutions, the academic community.

She will submit a report on her visit to the Philippines, which will be an addendum to her thematic report to the 59th session of the Human Rights Council, to take place in June 2025.

Activists rally for journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio’s release. Photo by Bullit Marquez

The first woman to be appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Khan was secretary general of Amnesty International from 2001 to 2009 and director general of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) from 2012 to 2019.

Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council. They are not employed by United Nations and the position they hold is honorary. As independent experts, they exercise their independent and professional judgement in the implementation of all aspects of their mandates.


At her pre-departure press conference, Khan called for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which has been accused of engaging in red-tagging, a practice of linking activists to the communist rebels. Photo by Bullit Marquez