A few weeks ago, the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) with its GUILTY verdict made international headlines. The IPT took place in Brussels, Belgium from Sept 18-19 to indict Presidents Duterte and Trump for “crimes against the Filipino people.” The Tribunal was convened by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH), Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, IBON International, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).
The Filipino people at the suit of BAYAN, KMU, Migrante, GABRIELA, and nine other people’s organizations were the Complainants who filed charges against the Defendants President Duterte, the Philippine Government, President Donald Trump and the US Government, the IMF, World Bank, WTO, transnational corporations and foreign banks doing business in the Philippines. The charges were gross and systematic violations of human rights, i.e, civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, the violations of international humanitarian law and the violations of the rights of the people to national self -determination and development.
The Tribunal found President Rodrigo Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump responsible for human rights violations against the people of the Philippines. Experts and victims of human rights violations presented testimonies on poverty, homelessness, the “drug war,” political persecution, extrajudicial killings, the oppression of women and a range of issues.
The jurors of the IPT 2018 were Mamdouh Habashi, head of the International Office of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party in Egypt and Vice-President of the World Forum for Alternatives (WFA) in Dakar; Monica Moorehead, co-coordinator of the International Working Women’s Day Coalition in New York City and an executive board member of the International Women’s Alliance; Ties Prakken, professor of criminal law at Maastricht University and practices criminal law and human rights; Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP);Atty. Azadeh N. Shahshahani, prominent human rights lawyer, former President of the National Lawyers Guild; Dr. Gianni Tognoni, Secretary General of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT); Roland Weyl, founder and first Vice-President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Dean of the Paris Bar; and Rev. Michael Yoshii, Pastor of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church (UMC) in California and Chairman of the Advocacy & Justice Committee for the California Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The jurors wrote in their Verdict:
“The fact that Defendant Duterte was a president the people voted for, meant
that the people had entertained the hope that they might expect a
some[what] more democratic regime after years of crude dictatorship. That
hope of the people implied a moral obligation of Defendant Duterte towards
the people. The human rights violations that are proven by the different
witnesses are therefore also a serious betrayal. On the contrary, he has
persisted with quite disturbing viciousness in continuing previous governments’
gross and wholesale violations against the Filipino people.”
The International People’s Tribunal declared it quite clearly that “In essence and practice, what Defendant Duterte has done and continues to do is a genocidal war against the majority of exploited sectors in the Philippines, especially the indigenous peoples.”
The Verdict also illustrated in all of the charges raised by the Complainants the role and complicity of Donald Trump, et.al. — their sanction of the methods used by Duterte in his drug war, financial assistance and support of Duterte’s repressive measures against those critical of its economic, political and military policy, the military aid in terms of funding, intelligence, training and arms, and the impositions by the IMF, WB and WTO and their transnationals and foreign banks doing business in the Philippines, thereby perpetuating economic backwardness, plunder, and dependency.
Diehard Duterte Supporters (DDS) dismiss the Verdict as biased and not factual; the Presidential spokesperson called the verdict a “sham decision”, the IPT a “propaganda body of the international left” and the verdict as a useless piece of propaganda against the government.” It must be noted that Duterte, Trump, and the other Defendants were duly served with the Notice, Calendar of the Case and Rules of Procedure by the IPPT. The Defendants nor their counsel did not appear and did not reply back to the Tribunal. In doing so, the Defendants waived their rights to present evidence in their defense. They could have had their day in court but they chose not to.
The Defendants could have challenged the evidence but they did not. The evidence presented by the Complainants to the Tribunal included oral testimonies under oath, judicial affidavits and sworn statements, case summaries, fact sheets, studies, expert analysis, videotaped depositions and clips, slides presentations, and other relevant documents presented or submitted in person or into the record at the Tribunal in public session. There were 31 witnesses, experts and resource persons for all three charges against the Defendants. It was made clear by the jurors that even with the absence of the Defendants, the Complainants still had to prove their charges with “clear, convincing and credible evidence.” And they did.
The Philippine Government’s dismissal of the Verdict cannot hide what the IPT described as the “window of visibility” that has opened on the “gravity of the violations and related responsibility” – “a tragic scenario of intolerable violence, impunity, and state terror, which must be immediately exposed not only to be condemned, but to require an immediate awareness by the peoples of the world and intervention by the responsible actors of international law.”…..“The narratives are eerily familiar and oftentimes similar to previous violations that past peoples’ tribunals have covered. And yet the Defendant Duterte has created new forms of attacks and intensified the old ones.”
The copies of the Verdict were submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) where charges against Duterte are also pending, the European Parliament and the United Nations Human Rights Council on September 21 which coincided with the anniversary of Martial Law in the Philippines. Human rights advocates and solidarity groups are expected to deliver a copy of the verdict to Philippine embassies and consulates in Canada and other countries. Copies of the Verdict are expected to be sent to other organizations, entities and States, including the US Embassy in Brussels and the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations.
The Videos of the Tribunal process and the Verdict is available online at http://iadllaw.org/2018/09/international-peoples-tribunal-on-the-philippines-issues-verdict-on-duterte-and-trump/ (this is the website of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers).