The recent decision of the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions and an asset freeze on Libya for its violent dispersal of protesters is the latest instance where systematic breaches of human rights were made subject to collective security measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Members of the UN envisioned that wars could be avoided if the use of force was made illegal and subject only to well-defined exceptions, including when it is authorized by the UN Security Council itself. Traditionally, these forms of collective security measures took the form of UN forces sent to trouble spots. Examples of these were the UN forces sent to Korea, Congo, and recently, to the Ivory Coast, and even operation Desert Storm where the UN sanctioned the use of “all means necessary” to compel Iraq to end its invasion of Kuwait.
Pursuant to the language of the UN Charter, UN collective security measures were aimed at dealing with “threats to international peace”. They weretraditionally aimed at acts of aggression which are committed when a state sends its regular armed forces into the territory of another state. All these changed though in the 80’s when as a result of great strides in mass communication, the world saw images of the worse humanitarian disasters and genocide broadcast in their television screens worldwide. These broadcasts resulted in a worldwide outrage which in turn, resulted in a decision by the UN to resort to collective security measures not just against acts of aggression, but also against those who will commit systematic and widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The technique that enabled this development was for the UN to characterize widespread human rights violations as threats to international peace. Thus far, results have been profound and far reaching: while sanctions used to be limited to economic andmilitary sanctions, it now includes the use of penology, or international criminal prosecutions for those who will commit these egregious violations.
While the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were the first criminal tribunals created as a form of collective security measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, we have today other tribunals which have also been created under the auspices of the UN, but not necessarily bythe Security Council. Hence, we now have special tribunals in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and the Hariri Tribunal in Lebanon, and even a hybrid tribunal such as the Extraordinary Chamber for Cambodia.
So when the Security Council this week imposed not just economic sanctions against Libya, but also a referral of the killing of civilian protesters as a crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court, the UN Security Councilinstitutionalized the resort to penology in dealing with systematic human rights violations as threats to international peace. This is a most welcome development in a world where human rights have oftentimes taken a back seat and viewed with less importance compared, for instance,to economic development.
This latest referral of the killings in Libya to the ICC was also only the second instance where the Security Council referred a situation to the Court. This too bodes well for the ICC since it has been criticized by three of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, China, the United States and Russia; as an affront to national sovereignty. At the very least, this second referral is indicative of these countries recognition for the need to have an international and permanent criminal tribunal to prosecute individuals who may commit the worse crimes against the international community. It is our hope that notwithstanding the continuing refusal of these three countries to become members of the Court, that these second referral would mark a major change in their policies towards the court. It is hoped that their latest decision will eventually result in the universal ratification of the Rome Statute of the Court soon.
Speaking of the ICC still, it is with pleasure that I announce that President Noynoy Aquino has finally sent the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to the Senate for the latter’s concurrence. This means that the President, subject to the concurrence of the Senate, has opted for membership in the ICC, a clear reversal of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s policy against it. This is a welcome development particularly at this time when so many of our countrymen may become victims of crimes against humanity being perpetrated by Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. With almost 13 million Filipinos constituting the diaspora, our membership in the ICC would ensure our countrymen of an effective legal remedy should they become victims of an international crime. Kudos for P-Noy for this historic decision.
The public is invited to a lecture of Judge SANG-HYUN SONG, President of the International Criminal Court on March 8, 9 to 11 AM at the Malcolm Hall Theater of the UP College of Law, Diliman Quezon City.