The National Lawyers Guild and International Association of Democratic Lawyers are among the co-convenors of an international tribunal to try cases of human rights violations under the presidency of Benigno S. Aquino III, launched on March 12 at the University of the Philippines, Diliman Quezon City.
Dubbed as the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT), the initiative will bring into focus the ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines and hold Pres. Aquino and the government of the United States as represented by Pres. Barack Obama to account before the international community.
“Beneath the liberal-democratic façade of the Aquino regime, brutal repression of people’s civil and political rights abound, with hundreds of cases of extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances and massive displacement of families,” according to Cristina Palabay of Karapatan, one of the complainants to the IPT.
The IPT will also probe into the role of the increasing US military presence and intervention in the Philippines in worsening the state of human rights in the country.
“The Mamasapano operation raises questions over the extent of the US military’s involvement in Philippine domestic security. Meanwhile, the Philippine government’s failure to assert jurisdiction over US marine officer Joseph Scott Pemberton for the murder of Jennifer Laude highlights how unequal ties between the US and the Philippines invite impunity,” according to Vanessa Lucas of the US-based National Lawyers Guild, one of the convenors of the IPT.
The Chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and another IPT Convenor, Reverend Canon Barry Naylor, explained that the IPT, although judicially non-binding, is symbolic and significant.
“People’s tribunals have had success in directing international attention to grave abuses of human rights in various countries including the Philippines during the Marcos and Arroyo regimes. The IPT draws inspiration and builds on the momentum of previous peoples’ tribunals to advance human rights and hold governments to account,” he said.
In 2008, a US Senate investigation on human rights violations in the Philippines under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led to restrictions on a portion of the annual US military aid package to the Philippine government tied to the implementation of strong human rights recommendations by US advocates. Despite a strong Aquino lobby to lift the restrictions, they remain intact.
The tribunal is set to convene on July 16-18, 2015 in Washington DC. Former US Congresswoman and peace advocate Cynthia McKinney will be among the distinguished panel of jurors who will hear live testimonies of witnesses from the Philippines.
Conveners of the tribunal include the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and IBON International.
For more information on the International Peoples Tribunal, visitinternationalpeoplestribunal.org.