Saturday, 16 July 2022
July 17 is International Criminal Justice Day. It marks 20 years since the ratification of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, by 60 states. Today there are over 120 States Parties to the ICC. The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute in 2011, and nominated the first Filipino to serve a full term as one of the ICC judges in 2015. In the midst of the brutal war on drugs, the Duterte government withdrew from the ICC in the mistaken assumption that it could avoid investigation for the thousands of extrajudicial killings.
But the ICC prosecutor recently asked permission to resume its investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines because of the failure of the government to demonstrate a genuine effort to address the human rights crises. The Department of Justice’s progress in its investigation of EJKs had been dismal and served to merely delay further measures towards criminal responsibility for the perpetrators. This year’s ICC anniversary is historically significant for the Philippine human rights community, coming into a new regime of Marcos-Duterte both of whom carry their fathers’ felonious legacies. Both are expected to continue the twin wars against drugs and against dissent, despite offering platitudes to the international community. Both champion the same political and economic policies that buried the country in chronic crises.
On the other hand the firm support and solidarity of the international community continue to offer strength and courage to those struggling to raise the alarm on the Philippine human rights situation. The ICC anniversary reminds us of what is at stake for the victims and their families, having found no recourse in the domestic system. Their committed engagement with the Court forms part of the global endeavor for justice, and builds toward important lessons that should contribute to critical reforms in the legal and justice systems in the country. International Justice Day unites generations of victims of gross human rights violations in the common pursuit of accountability, healing and lasting peace, towards lives of dignity for all.