Face challenges to International Humanitarian Law with greater hope and courage
The Philippines marks International Humanitarian Law Day, August 12, this year with greater hope and courage.
We mark this day with our achievements in creating a favorable policy environment for the promotion of the international humanitarian law (IHL). The most significant of which is the ratification of the Philippine Senate of the Rome Statute of the ICC in August 2011 and the enactment of the IHL law by the Philippine Congress in December 2010.
We mark this day with the positive response of the Philippine government, the security sector and other government agencies, notably the paradigm shift being undertaken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines with its Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan which aims for zero tolerance for human rights and international humanitarian law violations, the establishment of Human Rights Offices within the AFP and the Philippine National Police, as well as the humanitarian interventions provided by government agencies to communities, especially women and children, in conflict-torn areas.
We mark this day with the increasing participation and vigilance of civil society groups in monitoring compliance to IHL and for initiating various programs that would prevent or mitigate conflicts such as education and information campaigns, policy advocacy and community dialogues.
The PCICC recognizes the valuable efforts of many civil society groups like WeAct 1325 or Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325), a national network supporting the National Action Plan on of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325; Bantay Bayanihan, organized as an oversight monitoring and engagement group on the AFP’s 2010-2016 IPSP Bayanihan; and the Civil Society Initiatives for International Humanitarian Law (CSI-IHL).
PCICC individual and organizational members — Amnesty International Philippines, Ateneo Human Rights Center, BALAY Rehabilitation Center, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), Medical Action Group, PhilRights, Task Force Detainees-Philippines (TFDP), Women’s Legal Bureau and WEDPRO, among others – continue to monitor and document human rights and IHL violations, provide relief and rehabilitation services to internally displaced persons, and advocate for IHL and legal remedies to violations.
Indeed, the Philippines has achieved significant strides in recent years in promoting humanitarian law, albeit with greater challenges in the face of the continuing war between the Philippine Government and the New People’s Army, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and other armed groups – – aggravated by infightings among rebel groups.
Impunity continues. Extra judicial killings, enforced disappearance, massive displacements of communities and other war crimes continue. Our efforts still fall short in relation to the magnitude of the problem.
As the Philippines mark IHL day on August 12 this year, the imperative of intensifying our efforts to establish and institutionalize mechanisms that would effectively stir the wheels of justice and rule of law within our national jurisdiction is the order of the day.
Important questions and areas of concerns have to be acted upon urgently, e.g., how to operationalize observance of the IHL at the field level of the AFP and PNP; the protection of victims and witnesses; designation of special courts to try cases involving crimes punishable under RA 9851 or the Philippine IHL law; designation of prosecutors and investigators by the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Justice, the Philippine National Police or other concerned law enforcement agencies; training of judges, prosecutors and investigators in human rights, international humanitarian law and international criminal law; ratification or enactment of important pieces of legislation like the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the ICC (APIC), enforced disappearance, internally displaced persons, children involved in armed conflict, among others.
This calls for a review of our work in education, information and communication, our work on humanitarian interventions, and our work in monitoring, investigation and prosecution.
Monitoring, investigation and prosecution demands that we act not only with hope but with courage. This we do for the victims of IHL violations, for defenders and humanitarian workers who are threatened in their work and for our future as a nation. Past and present cases of IHL violations must be addressed or they will be repeated.
The imperative of realizing our commitment to IHL is underlined by the clashes in Central Mindanao that broke out a week ago. The fighting now affects three provinces and, as of August 9, has caused the internal displacement of over 5,500 families or 27,862 persons of which 30 percent are children. (Data from the Protection Cluster Mindanao, Philippines)
The PCICC shall continue to strengthen its work with other stakeholders against war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity with the end in view that structural and social inequities are eradicated – – where justice, peace and the rule of law prevails.
REBECCA E. LOZADA
This statement and PCICC activities in August is posted on its blog.
The Philippine CICC, established in 2000, believes that individual perpetrators of the most atrocious crimes — genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity — must be brought to justice. The PCICC aims to: a) promote the implementation by the Philippines of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; b) strengthen domestic institutions to end impunity and promote human rights through the observance, adherence and integration of principles and standards under the Rome Statute and those under international law; and, c) support similar initiatives in other countries particularly in the Asian region.
The Coalition works to attain these objectives through: lobby and advocacy work; research, particularly to deepen understanding on the principles and standards of the ICC; public education and capacity enhancement activities; strategic networking; and, adopting and testing innovative and creative approaches and strategies to advance its mission and objectives, on its own or in collaboration with other groups.
PCICC is a founding convenor of the Civil Society Initiatives for the International Humanitarian Law (CSI-IHL) as well as Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (WE Act 1325).
The PCICC is a member of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which gathers over 2,600 organizations from 150 countries around the world working together for international justice.
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