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Monday, June 24, 2024

Tribunal finds Marcos, Duterte, Biden ‘guilty’ of war crimes

May 19, 2024, Kodao.org

The International People’s Tribunal (IPT) found President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., former president Rodrigo Duterte, the Government of the Philippines as well as President Joseph Biden and the Government of the United States of America (USA) guilty of war crimes in Philippines.

In an hour-long presentation of its verdict in Brussels, Belgium Saturday afternoon (local time), the IPT said the respondents are guilty of willfully killing civilians, intentionally directing attacks against civilians and property, as well as using indiscriminate means and methods of warfare that cause injury or unnecessary suffering.

Aside from causing widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment, the Manila government’s military operations cause displacement of the civilian population, impede humanitarian aid, and commit acts or threats of violence and terror among civilians, the IPT said.

“These acts constitute serious violations of treaty and customary international law applicable in armed conflicts. In view of the foregoing factual and legal findings, the tribunal unanimously finds the defendants…guilty of all crimes and charges, including war crimes and violations of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) alleged in the indictment,” the IPT’s panel of jurors declared.

The Tribunal added that the respondents are guilty of willful killing of New People’s Army (NPA) fighters already rendered hors d’combat (French for “unable to fight”). It also found them guilty of torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment as well as “outrages against personal dignity and humiliating and degrading treatment and desecration of bodies of slain NPA fighters.”

In addition, the Philippine armed forces also “committed abduction and enforced disappearance, the arbitrary arrest and detention and deliberate attacks against civilians merely suspected of having links with a belligerent party, including the filing of trumped-up charges, red-tagging, terrorist labeling and designation, threats and harassments and intimidation,” the Tribunal said.

The jurors said the prosecutors proved with “clear, convincing, credible, consistent and relevant evidence” their allegations, leading to a unanimous verdict.

The Tribunal said it heard oral evidence from victims and families, expert witnesses and resource persons. It also read affidavits, letters, written statements, reports, publications, resolutions, and similar documents, as well as saw photographs and images, watched and heard audio-video recordings in the course of its two-day deliberations that started last Friday.

“[There were] 15 witnesses in the proceedings, eight in person and seven through video depositions, who delivered in clear and coherent manner. Eleven were victims, families or colleagues while four were experts or resources persons who testified on the context, nature and scale of IHL and human rights violations,” it said.

Policy and practice

The IPT cited the massacre of the Fausto family in Negros Island, the massacre of Tumandok tribespeople across Panay Island, and the killing and persecution of the Save Our School tribal school volunteers across Mindanao as examples of the “willful killing of civilians by GRP (Government of Republic of the Philippines) forces.”

It said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) uniformly claimed the victims were NPA fighters and planted evidence to bolster their canard.

The IPT also said that government air strikes and use of heavy ordnance in various places across the country were “indiscriminate.”

Many captured NPA fighters, including those already rendered hors d’combat have been summarily executed as a “matter of practice,” the jurors added, citing the cases of the five recently killed in Bilar, Bohol and of the 22-year old Jevilyn Cullamat

“That these happened in various regions has rendered this as a matter of policy for state armed forces…The scale and frequency of these practices indicate they were deliberate and undertaken as a matter of policy by the GRP,” the jurors said.

The Tribunal also found the defendants guilty of “sustained nationwide attacks against individuals and organizations led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict through red-tagging campaigns and terrorist proscription.

Victims of such vilification campaigns often end up dead like NDFP peace consultant and peasant leader Randall Echanis, or permanently disabled such as paralegal and community journalist Beandon Lee, the jurors said.

The jurors also noted that there has been a steady rise of abduction and enforced disappearance under Marcos Jr. and his government, such as in the case of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, as well as Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus last year.

The witnesses gave “astoundingly credible detail” of the systematic nature of the abductions,” the Tribunal said.

Witnesses to include former Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat whose daughter, slain NPA fighter Juvilyn, was desecrated by government soldiers. (IPT photo)

“The lack of genuine investigations into these cases and the impunity that characterize these cases all point to to the GRP as the author,” it said.

The Philippine government could not rely on the existence of its national laws as justification for violating humanitarian or human rights obligations under international law, also noting the lack of genuine police investigations or reports of violations, “even passing the blame on the victims.”

US equally guilty

The Tribunal said Biden and the US government are similarly guilty of the said war crimes and human rights violations.

It said the US places large resources at Manila government’s disposal, including USD1.14 billion worth of military equipment.

Presidents Marcos and Biden at the White House in 2023. (Malacanang photo)

The US is also building military facilities across the country and sends thousands of troops to train the AFP and participate in war games called the Balikatan, the Tribunal noted.

It added that the Philippine counter-insurgency strategy is adopted from US doctrine.

“The US is responsible for directing, training and operating the GRP…[playing an] indispensible role in the atrocities,” he tribunal said.

International jurors and prosecutors

IPT 2024 was presided by a panel of international jurors of lawyers, parliamentarians, professors, and a Bishop.

Julen Arzuaga Gumuzio is a Basque politician, writer and lawyer, member of the Euskal Herria Bildu coalition in the Basque Parliament since 2012. He is part of the European Association of Democratic Lawyers.

Lennox Hinds is founder of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and former counsel for the African National Congress. He currently teaches in the Criminal Justice Program at Rutgers University.

Suzanne Adely is a founder of the Middle East, North Africa Labor Solidarity Network in the United States. She is a long-time member of Al-Awda-NY, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Defend the Egyptian Revolution Committee of New York.

Joris Vercammen is a Belgian cleric and archbishop of the Old Catholic Church, active in the Netherlands. Vercammen was elected to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches in 2006.

Séverine de Laveleye is a Belgian politician active for Ecolo. In 2018 she was elected as a municipal councilor of Vorst for Ecolo and was elected as as a member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives in 2019.

The prosecutors meanwhile were Belgian human rights lawyer Jan Fermon and his German colleagueRoland Meister.

The jurors said copies of their verdict shall be sent to the Philippine Embassy in Brussels, the US Embassy in Brussels, the European External Action Service, the European Parliament, the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the UN High Commission on Human Rights, the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent, the UN Secretary General, and the Permanent People’s Tribunal. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Read the full verdict:

https://peoplestribunal.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/IPT-2024-INITIAL-Verdict-18-May.pdf

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