Congress OKs International Humanitarian Law

Congress OKs International Humanitarian Law
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net First Posted 12:22:00 10/06/2009 Filed Under: Laws, Unrest and Conflicts and War, War, Crime and Law and Justice, Crime

MANILA, Philippines—The country moved closer to passing its version of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), aimed to minimize the effects of armed conflicts on civilians, including holding liable commanders and other superiors under the principle of command responsibility.

Meeting on Monday, the bicameral conference committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives approved the Act Defining and Penalizing Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity, Organizing Jurisdiction, Designating Special Courts, and for other related purposes.

Quezon province Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III, chairman of the House committee on human rights, called the approval “another important milestone for the promotion of international humanitarian law in the Philippines.”

He said the measure was needed amid the decades-old armed conflict of the government with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing the New People’s Army, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“This law is of particular importance to the country because of the long-existing armed conflict between the government and the CPP/NPA and between the government and the MILF specially now that there is no real progress in the peace negotiations with the armed revolutionary movements,” Tanada said in a statement.

“It is hoped that this bill will help protect civilians and non-combatants especially women and children against violations of human rights whether by the military or private entities,” he added.

Known as the “law of the war or the law of armed conflict,” IHL is a set of rules seeking to limit the effects of armed conflict on civilians. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare.

Salient provisions of the measure include:

* definition and penalty for crimes against IHL, genocide, and crimes against humanity;

* providing for criminal and administrative liability of commanders and other superiors under the principle of command responsibility;

* providing protection to the civilians, non-combatants, and witnesses as well as reparations to the victims;

* providing that crimes defined in the law are not subject to prescription; and

* providing for the universal jurisdiction over persons, whether military or civilian, suspected or accused of the crimes defined and penalized under the bill, and designates the regional trial court as having original and exclusive jurisdiction over the international crimes punishable under the law.

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