Monday, June 1, 2009

Gordon lauds passage of IHL bill on third reading

Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) today hailed the Senate’s passage on third reading of the measure codifying international humanitarian law (IHL) within the country’s legal system.

Gordon, author and sponsor of Senate Bill 2669, said the measure defines and penalizes crimes against international humanitarian law and other serious international crimes, keep our guard up operationalizing universal jurisdiction, and designating special courts.

“This measure is a symbolic gesture of our continuing adherence and strong commitment to IHL. But above symbolisms, our goal is to end impunity and penalize crimes against international humanitarian law,” he said.

Gordon also lauded the approval on the committee level of the House version of the bill as he urged members of the House of Representative to immediately pass the measure on second and third readings.

“There is a need to codify international crimes within the domestic legal system to ensure that those who commit war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity are not afforded impunity for their acts,” he said.

The IHL is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, a limit to the effects of armed conflict such that persons who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities are protected and the means and methods of warfare are restricted.

The core of SB 2669 seeks to define three international crimes, namely war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, and to impose imprisonment depending on the gravity of the crime committed.

War crimes are acts committed in a situation of armed conflict and against a person not taking part, or no longer taking part, in the hostilities.

In international armed conflict, war crimes include willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment and willfully causing great injury. In non-international armed conflict the criminal acts include violence to life and person, outrages upon personal dignity and taking of hostages.

Crimes against humanity are acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, such as murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, enforced disappearance, among others.

In genocide, the primary element is that the act is committed with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.

“SB 2669 will ensure that there are no havens for perpetrators of serious crimes of concern to the international community, by providing for their prosecution in the domestic courts,” Gordon said.

“The bill also provides that Philippine courts shall take additional measures to protect the safety, physical and psychological well-being, dignity and privacy of victims and witnesses,” he added.

Gordon said the bill also introduces into the country’s penal system principles of criminal responsibility unique to the prosecution of international crimes such as command responsibility, non-prescription of crimes and irrelevance of official capacity.

In command responsibility, a superior is held responsible if he has done nothing to prevent a subordinate from committing a violation of IHL.

Prescription will not apply, especially in view of the gravity of certain violations that run counter to the interests of the international community as a whole, because the repression of serious violations of IHL is essential to ensuring respect for this branch of law. (30/tgp)

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