Panelo’s remark on barring Filipinos from joining ICC inquiry sets ‘dangerous precedent’ — rights group

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Panelo’s remark on barring Filipinos from joining ICC inquiry sets ‘dangerous precedent’ — rights group

(philstar.com) – March 21, 2019 – 6:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s statement that Filipinos may be barred from leaving the country to participate in any inquiry conducted by the International Criminal Court sets a “very dangerous precedent,” a human rights watchdog said Thursday.

Panelo said the government cannot bar citizens from taking part in a preliminary examination done outside the Philippines but he stressed that what it “can do is to deny them exit.”

“Well, if the purpose of leaving the country is to participate in illegal activity and as far as the country is concerned, that would be illegal,” Panelo told One News’ “The Chiefs” Wednesday.

He added that the government may cancel the passports of those who would participate in an activity that is “against your own country.”

Red flags

But Amnesty International Philippines is seeing red flags on Panelo’s statement.

“Panelo’s words must not be taken lightly as it sets a very dangerous precedent. It should be regarded as a threat to human rights defenders and the shrinking civic space in the Philippines, with the aim to restrict or impede human rights activities, including cooperation with international and regional human rights mechanisms,” Butch Olano, AI Philippines section director, said.

He added that Panelo’s statement validated that human rights works are really not welcomed in the Philippines.

The Philippines’ withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute—the treaty that created the ICC—was formalized last Sunday, making it the second country to leave the tribunal after Burundi.

But the preliminary examination into President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown that has killed thousands continues despite the country’s pullout, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said. 

The court continues to have jurisdiction over the possible crime against humanity committed during the period the Philippines was a state party to the statute.

Panelo earlier said ICC personnel will not be allowed to enter the Philippines if they are in the country to investigate.

READ: Palace says ICC investigators won’t be allowed to enter Philippines

‘Curtailment of peoples’ civil liberties’

The ICC, based in The Hague, is a tribunal meant to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression when national courts are unable or unwilling.

It was established to ensure that people within its jurisdiction who are victims of crimes under the Rome Statute have another avenue to safely seek justice and reparation.

Olan stressed that Panelo’s statement is an “admission that President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration does not respect its obligation to provide its citizens a variety of measures and venues to obtain justice in a systematic and thorough way both at the national and international levels.”

He added: “The announcement of a blanket policy that curtails the peoples’ guaranteed civil liberties such as the right to freedom of association or movement is an affront to victims of human rights violations seeking redress.”

Bensouda launched a preliminary examination into the alleged crime against humanity committed during the conduct of Duterte’s war on drugs in February last year.