Why Should Filipinos in Canada Care about War Crimes and International Humanitarian Law?

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IPT 2018 (Photo credit: https;//peoplestribunal.net
On May 17-18, 2024, the International Peoples Tribunal (IPT) 2024 will be the center of global attention. This quasi-judicial tribunal will look into the alleged war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Filipino people against the US-backed regimes of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Rodrigo Duterte, respectively. (Photo from the 2018 IPT)

By Malaya Movement Canada

(Note: This is the second of a series on the International Peoples Tribunal (IPT) 2024)

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Even in the midst of war or armed conflict, there are rules of war, rules on lawful conduct.  To violate these rules is to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. The rules of war are codified in various treaties, including the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.

Yes, the Philippines is in the midst of a civil war. Yes, there is an ongoing armed conflict in the Philippines. It has been called one of the longest-running insurgencies in Asia. “The civil war between the GRP and the NDFP involves the struggle for self-determination and the people’s war for national liberation.”   Yes, in the midst of this civil war, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have met a number of times to discuss peace through the Peace Negotiations to resolve the on-going armed conflict.  This civil war has been going on for over half a century, since 1969, when Marcos the Father was president.

The world’s spotlight will be on the  International People’s Tribunal on May 17-18 where the charges against current president Marcos the Son (2022- present) , and his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte (2016-2022), on “alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) under their respective ‘counterinsurgency’ operations patterned after the US National Security Strategy and the US ‘Counterinsurgency Guide’ “will be heard. The specific crimes to be investigated include “extrajudicial and summary killings of civilians and hors de combat, desecration of remains of combatants, massacre of civilians and other forms of collective punishment, torture, enforced disappearances, mass arrests, indiscriminate firing,indiscriminate aerial bombing of communities and use of white phosphorus bombs, hamletting, terrorist labelling and use of repressive terror laws, assassination of civilians, attacks on schools, fake or forced surrenders, attacks against peace consultants and other forms of suppression.”

It will be a trial for the whole world to watch. When the  allegations of  war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law are proven, and a guilty verdict is decreed, that makes Marcos the Son, and former president Rodrigo Duterte criminals.

There are no statutes of limitations for war crimes, which means, in popular language, there is no expiration date. The quest for justice does not expire. It can be years but the perpetrators can be held accountable, handed over to the courts, and punished. Think of the ongoing genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel before the International Court of Justice. Remember former president of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic who was  tried and indicted before the International Criminal Tribunal; he was first indicted for war crimes in Kosovo by Louise Arbour, the Canadian chief prosecutor in The Hague in 1999. Milosevic died in his jail cell in The Hague. Who can forget former Chilean president & dictator Augusto Pinochet whose arrest in the UK  marked the first time that a former head of state was arrested in a foreign country for international crimes against humanity, terrorism, and genocide based on the principle of universal jurisdiction? These are a few examples of hope that justice, however long and difficult the process takes, prevails.

And the Canadian connection? Filipinos make up almost a million of the population in Canada. We live in a country that prides itself in its image as one that claims to uphold human rights and the rule of law. There has been a lot of coverage on the 75 years of Filipino and Canadian relations and the agreements like the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation between Canada and the Philippines. There would likely be  more Canadian aid, the opening of investments, and actions of security and defense cooperation.  In fact, in the biggest war exercises in the Philippines that ended on May 10, Canada was one of the 14 international observers, a first for Canada.  Would Canada prioritize its business and military interests in the Philippines with Marcos, the Son’s terrible human rights record, corruption, and after the IPT, a possible verdict of guilty for its war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law?

2018 IPT (Photo by IPT Media).

When the tyrannical government of Marcos the Father gained notoriety for its terrible human rights record under martial law, Canada distanced itself from that regime, both in aid and support, until Marcos the Father was ousted and Corazon Aquino came into power. Would Canada do the same?

The IPT will be live streamed. Watch the IPT panel of five international and distinguished  jurors:  Suzanne Adely,  Julen Arzuaga Gumuzio, Lennox Hinds, Joris Vercammenis and Séverine de Laveleye.  

Watch lawyers Jan Fermon and Roland Meister who make up the tribunal’s prosecution team in action.

Do not miss the live coverage of the International People’s Tribunal 2024 on the War Crimes of the U.S.-backed Marcos Jr. and Duterte regimes on May 16 at 10:00 CEST, May 17-18 from 09:30 to 18:00 CEST, and May 19 at 05:00 CEST for exclusive access to the press conferences and the proceedings. Please visit the IPT website (https://peoplestribunal.net/) for more information.

Remember, the IPT  is a historical event for human rights and peoples rights, legal history, and the triumph for justice. ###