MANILA – The Philippines remains committed to promoting the importance of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as part of efforts to ensure a functional justice system.
Speaking in a webinar on the third and last day of the 2020 Human Rights Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Thursday, Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said this year marks important milestones in terms of training, advocacies, and commitments on the part of the Department of Justice in tackling IHL issues.
Last July 17, the National Prosecution Service (NPS) headed by Malcontento signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the purpose of strengthening the capacity and skills of prosecutors to handle IHL cases.
The MOU was followed by a prosecution specialization course on IHL that was launched in November, including a specialized course on the subject.
“This only shows we are truly committed to our advocacies despite the limitation brought about by the pandemic,” Malcontento said.
He also cited the need to integrate IHL in handling cases the country is facing, including cyber warfare, the recruitment of child warriors, and children’s access to education in times of conflict.
“I cannot overemphasize therefore the importance of these studies in the need in combatting IHL related crimes which is prevalent in local and international arenas,” Malcontento said.
Meanwhile, ICRC legal department head Georgia Hinds said “IHL is relevant to everyone and everywhere on the basis of international solidarity” and pointed out the importance of capacity building for officials.
“(S)tate officials have a greater opportunity for compliance (with) IHL, whether that is in the debates in the UN, official government statements and diplomatic pressure, all these can be so important and can make a real difference to people struggling and suffering all throughout the world,” she said.
Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna, who was also at the forum, said IHL would be involved in many of the cases that will be handled by the courts assigned.
Azcuna said IHL gains importance as an “overarching principle against impunity” and ensures that no individual would feel that they can violate these rules and get away with it.
“Sooner or later, they will be punished,” Azcuna said.
Meanwhile, the Armed of the Philippines (AFP) said its internal legal system has a built-in mechanism in handling IHL violations.
Col. Joel Alejandro Nacnac, chief of the AFP Human Rights Office, said while the military does not usually make the cases public, records of these cases are kept and handled by their Provost Marshall’s Office for verification.
Aside from the Provost Marshall’s Office, Nacnac said the process of military justice also involves the Inspector General’s Office and the Ethical Standards Office which probes reports of rules any soldier violated and reported by any of their units.
He added that under court-martial procedure, soldiers may be punished administratively or criminally. (PNA)