Int'l criminal court proposed by Davide

Rey G. Panaligan
Manila Bulletin

Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr. batted yesterday for the immediate establishment of an international criminal court (ICC) where individuals can be held accountable for crimes offensive to humanity and the inclusion of ''terrorism'' as one of the criminal acts triable by the court.
In a keynote address before international criminal law experts in their three-day conference in Makati City, Davide said the ICC "is the missing link in the chain of international justice" and differentiated it with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which handles disputes between states.
"With all of humanity on the edge of fear and uncertainty after the terrorist attacks of September 11 on the United States of America and the response thereto," Davide said "this conference may even seriously consider 'terrorism' as a subject to be specifically covered by the Rome Statute that would set up the ICC."
According to Davide, the ICC "is not intended to supplant any state's jurisdiction over crimes committed within their territories or by their nationals."
He said that "under the principle of complementarity enshrined in the preamble of the Rome Statute, the ICC may assume jurisdiction over a case only when the domestic courts are unable or unwilling to carry out a genuine investigation and prosecution of crimes defined under the statute."
The ICC was conceived to handle genocide, war crimes, and other crimes against humanity such as widespread and systematic extermination of civilians, enslavement, torture, rape, forced pregnancy, persecution on political, racial, ethnic of religious grounds, and enforced disappearances.
The meeting in the Philippines of the international criminal law experts is being coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government, the Office of the Solicitor General, Office of the Executive Secretary, Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, and the University of the Philippines' College of Law.
Justice Secretary Hernando D. Perez said the conference is the kick off of the campaign for the ratification of the ICC treaty by nations in the ASEAN region.
In his speech, Davide traced the long history of attempts by nations to set up an ICC. He said the idea to hold individuals liable for egregious crimes was conceived as early as 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was adopted to try German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm.
After World War II, he said that international tribunals were set up in Nuremberg and Tokyo to try major war criminals. "From these trials stemmed the recognition of the necessity to hold individuals personally accountable for outrageous crimes of global concern," he said.
In 1948, Davide said the Genocide Convention provided for the trial before an international penal tribunal of crimes against humanity should such tribunal be set up.
He said that draft statutes were prepared in 1951 and 1953 but these were shelved during the Cold War. For almost 50 years, he said, wide-scale atrocities were committed in various countries with none of the perpetrators held accountable.
In 1989, the idea for an international tribunal surfaced anew and tested in 1993 and 1994 by the United Nations with the setting up of ad hoc bodies for crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
"Noting the success of these ad hoc bodies vis-avis their limitations as to area and duration, among other considerations, the international community rallied to support the principle of personal criminal liability for international crimes through the establishment of an ICC," Davide said.
According to Davide, 160 nations in 1998 converged in Rome, Italy, to discuss the setting up of an ICC and 120 countries adopted the Rome Statute for the court. So far, he said, 37 countries have ratified the statute and 23 others are needed to effect the establishment of the court.
"We all want to strengthen interpersonal relationships among world leaders and movers so that individual perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes will never find refuge or succor in any corner of the globe," Davide said.
He added that "we are here to preserve life by bringing justice to those who defile it. Verily, the value of life must be same everywhere in this world at all times and at any climate."