Gloria’s fear of int’l crimes court unfounded — envoy

October 1, 2008

Unfounded fears of the Arroyo administration over the forming of an International Criminal Court (ICC) should not stop the government from signing the global human rights treaty, a European diplomat said yesterday.

The European Union’s (EU) representative to the county said the government should not fear the ratification of the Rome Statute that would create an international war and human rights tribunal.

Alistair MacDonald, head of the delegation of the European Commission, admitted that there are some “misunderstandings” on the concept of the ICC, prompting apprehensive states like the Philippines to delay the statute’s ratification.

“We can understand the concerns raised by our partners worldwide, but I must underline that the EU sincerely believes that the Rome Statute upholds the highest standards of objectivity and accountability, and cannot in any sense lend itself to political manipulation,” MacDonald said in his speech at the Philippine Judicial Academy Conference on the ICC.

MacDonald noted that the Rome Statute contains a “robust set of safeguards and checks and balances to avoid such a risk.”

The ICC will have jurisdiction over perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity — offenses that threaten the

peace, security, and well being of humankind — including some acts that may be characterized as terrorism, as well as aggression.

Eight years after the Philippines became a signatory to the agreement on Dec. 28, 2000, the Executive Department has yet to submit the instruments of ratification to the Senate.

The military and police have expressed reservations to the statute’s ratification, saying leftist groups may take advantage of the treaty and file frivolous and politically motivated cases against them.

MacDonald said the EU will continue to engage the Philippines to support an early ratification of the Rome Statute.

“The EU remains entirely confident that the work of the ICC in the years to come will continue to demonstrate its impartiality and commitment to justice, and thus assuage any concerns that may remain in the Philippines or elsewhere,” he said.

The United States, a close military ally of the Philippines, has objected to the treaty because any American prosecuted by the international court will be denied procedural protection to which all Americans are entitled under the bill of rights of the US Constitution.

Washington also threatened to cut military assistance to countries that will ratify the statute.

However, in 2003 the Philippines and the US signed an executive agreement on the mutual non-surrender of each other’s nationals, which includes military personnel, government officials and civilians, to third parties and grant them immunity from prosecution under the ICC.

To date, 120 countries have ratified the treaty.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno had urged local officials to work for the ratification of the Rome Statute by the Senate, and include the country among the states under the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Former President Joseph Estrada signed it in December 2000, but President Arroyo has not submitted the document to the Senate for ratification despite requests by opposition senators

In a speech at the end of the two-day SC-sponsored Conference on the ICC, Puno said the country’s ratification of the treaty will “diminish the politics of convenience with which the Great Powers have treated violations of human rights.”

“I like to believe that the coming of the ICC starts the dawn of another day for international human rights. It is the day when human rights ought to be respected because they are rights of human as human beings, because they are inseparable to human dignity, and not because they are politically convenient or economically advantageous to the powers that be,” he stressed.

The ICC is the court of last resort in the sense that it is the venue by which individuals or groups of individuals seek relief when nations are unavailable or inaccessible to prosecute a crime.

The international conference is being participated in by representatives from international organizations, legislative, civil society, academe and the media, among others.

According to Puno, the ICC gives hope to the people in countries where human rights are written as creeds but violated in deeds.

He pointed out that one obstacle that confronts national courts in protecting human rights abuses are the different kinds of immunities given to certain officials to prevent their prosecution.

Should the treaty finally be ratified, Puno said it could signal the beginning when the State will take a “more humanitarian view of its sovereignty,” to promote the welfare of its people, not as a shield to cover the wrongdoings of its officials, especially those who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, torture or terrorism.




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