Civilians caught in crossfire, child soldiers, forced evacuations, sexual violence in situations of armed conflict—these are some of the crimes that continue to beset our country as fighting continues between the government’s military forces and insurgent armed groups. People’s lives are tallied as accidental casualties of war and impunity persists. In times like this, international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, is a beacon that gives hope that human suffering will be abated and justice will be served on IHL violations.
In the past few years, the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court celebrated the strengthening of IHL in the country with the enactment of RA 9851, the national law on IHL, in 2009; and, the government’s ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2011. The Philippines is committed to penalize war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. IHL continues to be strengthened and refined through the efforts of government and civil society in institutionalizing respect for humanity during situations of armed conflict.
On August 12, and every day, we raise our voice to call for justice for victims of varied IHL violations perpetrated against both civilians and combatants, by state and non-state actors alike, transcending age, gender or faith.
Violations cannot be allowed to be a bloody game of attacks and counterattacks. We call for thorough investigations and legal action on possible cases of IHL violations. The past year alone was rocked by the ambush of Gingoog Mayor Ruthie Guingona in Misamis Oriental; the deaths of civilians in La Castellana, Negros Occidental during an NPA operation; the reported recruitment of child soldiers by both the communist and Muslim insurgents; the use of schools as military encampment during operations; the displacement of communities in Mindanao because of BIFF-AFP clashes; among others.
Thus, while at present, both state and non-state parties appear to be more knowledgeable and committed to adherence to IHL, as borne out by their recent actuations—public apologies, release of captured soldiers, IHL education efforts—the imperative for giving teeth and heart to international humanitarian law still stands out more than ever.
On this day, in the face of these challenges, as we enjoin the world to celebrate the spirit of international humanitarian law, the PCICC vows to continue its journey towards justice and against impunity, in the hope of coming together with all the stakeholders towards a genuine and lasting peace in the country and for the love of humanity.
Ms. Lozada is National Coordinator for the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court.