An International Court of Justice

by Fr. Shay Cullen

The Philippines urgently needs to ratify the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). President Noynoy Aquino is on the edge of history as he is urged to submit the ratification bill at once and certify it as urgent and persuade the Philippine Senate to act on that bill without delay.

The Philippines is a signatory to the treaty but has not ratified it. That’s why no Filipino tyrant or military accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity has been investigated and brought before the court in The Hague.

This March 7 – 8, 2011, the ICC President, Judge Sang Hyun Song is visiting the Philippines and there will be an important opportunity for the Senate to move to ratify the treaty and make history to protect the people of the Philippines from the scourge of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. There is much unfinished human rights work to be revived covering past crimes that killed, tortured and maimed thousands of innocent people. They were systematically murdered and killed by despot Marcos and military commanders and have never been brought to justice. In recent years, death squads have killed over a thousands and no one has been brought to justice.

That’s where the ICC comes in. The systematic torture and killings on such a large scale constitutes crimes against humanity. The killers are so well connected and protected by powerful politicians only the ICC can bring them to justice in the court in The Hague.

The images coming out of Libya of bodies lying in the street, soldiers firing on peaceful protesters, tanks and planes shelling and bombing civilians, victims of brutal torture crying out for justice makes any decent person wish for strict justice for the tyrant and despot that is responsible for it all. Until recent years the civilized world was without a way to redress these horrific crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. What is worse is these tyrants and dictators were supported by western counties in order to get oil and political concessions.

The very weapons they are using against their own people were supplied by the western nations and Russia. The dictators were immune from prosecution. That changed with the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) under the Rome Statute in 1998. Now these killers and murders when toppled from power they cannot hide away or travel around the world with impunity to enjoy the millions stolen from the people they crushed and oppressed with brutality.

Even when still in power they can be charged and arrest warrants can be issued against them as with the present leader of Sudan. The only sitting head of state to be charged and an international arrest warrant issued against him.

Many responsible nations are even moving to freeze the despot’s assets and properties stashed in banks and institutions around the world. The surprised move by the United Nations last February to refer Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and some of his cronies to be investigated by the ICC is encouraging. It’s an indication that the court, which has successfully captured and tried notorious dictators and criminals, is now a widely recognized and respected international institution that dictators and tyrants need to fear.

The threat of an indictment and an international arrest warrant can also act as a deterrent to a regime violating human rights and committing war crimes and genocide. Recent convictions in the court in The Hague have brought closure to painful experiences and sufferings to many victims and hope to many more victims of horrific crimes against humanity.

After seeing the dead and mutilated bodies of street youth in Davao City, Philippines and making a world wide protest against it I was charged for libel by the city mayor. I then wished that Philippines had ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC. And those responsible for the wholesale killing enjoying impunity from prosecution in the Philippines would be held accountable before the world court.

The hundreds of killings in the city attributed by media reports to the Davao Death Squad constituted in the opinion of human rights lawyers and the Philippine Commissioner on Human Rights Leila de Lima, (now Secretary of Justice) a crime against humanity. Her investigation was thwarted by politicians, police and even a judge. There were just too many bodies and unsolved murders that could not be ignored. Yet the culprits could not be brought to justice in the Philippines, that’s where the ICC can intervene. The systematic killing of street youth and activists for decades surely constitutes crimes against humanity allegedly committed by government authorities since the Marcos regime. Tyrants control the people and keep them in ignorance through terror and fear until recently. Now the Internet, as a free and open communication channel, it can unseat dictators by its power to mobilize millions of people for peaceful demonstrations and protest.

Until recently it was the Philippine Department of Defense that opposed the ratification of Rome Statute by the Philippine Senate. Now it has removed its objections and the Senate must ratify it now without delay. It is a moral imperative to protect the people against war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide. This is why they were elected. This will be a crowning achievement of the Aquino Administration and the Senate giving them a place in history.

There have been over a thousand people murdered and assassinated in the past 15 years by suspected military and police hit squads. They were human rights workers, social activists, peaceful protesters, radio and print journalists, (over 124 of them were assassinated). Also political organizers pastors and priests were murdered and none have been solved. The ICC can bring light and justice into this dark and evil empire and hold those behind the killings and torture accountable and give them long prison sentences.

But first we have to get the Philippine senate to ratify the Rome Statute and then the Philippines will be able to call on the support and service of the ICC. Then those whom Jesus called blessed, those who hunger and thirst for justice, will have their fill.


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