Human Rights Lawyer Lectures on International Criminal Court
Human rights lawyer Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. addressed an audience of judges, lawyers and law students in a lecture on “Legal Nuances to the Philippine Ratification of the Rome Statute in the International Criminal Court” on August 19 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium.
The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998 as the first permanent international court set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.In 2011, the Philippines acceded to this Statute when it deposed its instrument of ratification at the United Nations in New York.
Atty. Roque began his talk with the historical background of both the ICC and the Rome Statute, followed by an explanation of its governing principles, and what triggers its jurisdiction. He also discussed the features of the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute as well as the two issues surrounding it, namely, the principle of complementarity and the country’s basic obligation to cooperate.
With the principle of complementarity, the ICC serves to complement national criminal jurisdictions, which means that States have the jurisdiction and the primary obligation to investigate, punish, and prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. For that reason, the ICC will only step in when national judicial systems fail and when it can be demonstrated that the State is either unwilling or unable to bring perpetrators to justice.
This then becomes an issue for the Philippine context, Atty. Roque said, because the country’s International Humanitarian Law (Republic Act No. 9851), which was established before signing into the ICC, is not identical with the Rome Statute as to what constitutes a crime. Therefore, Philippine courts cannot properly function as a court of first instance.
He noted that there is an absence of multilateral frameworks to ensure effective inter-state cooperation and mutual legal assistance for states wishing to conduct domestic prosecutions on these crimes.
Atty. Roque shared his opinion in conclusion that in order to help end impunity in our country and the rest of the world, the ICC must be allowed to step in and prosecute crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or aggression, even when and especially when State courts do not properly function as courts of first instance.
This lecture is part of the Academic Excellence Lecture Series in the Judiciary, sponsored by the Supreme Court of the Philippines Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA). It was done in partnership with Metrobank Foundation Inc., the Silliman University College of Law and the University's General Education Integrative Learning Lectures program.
Atty. Roque is a holder of the 2011 Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair in International and Human Rights Law and a member of the PHILJA Department of International and Human Rights Law. He has been admitted to practice before the International Criminal Court, the first Asian to have the honor, and the UN War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda. He is currently the Director of the Institute of International Legal Studies of the UP Law Center and is a partner at the Roque and Butuyan Law Offices in Makati City.