MANILA, Philippines — Japan is urging the Philippines to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and submit itself to the court that can prosecute and punish cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
The Philippines was one of the countries that drafted the 1998 treaty. Deposed President Joseph Estrada signed it in December 2000, but President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has not submitted the document to the Senate for ratification despite requests by opposition senators for Malacañang to do so.
Military and other security officials fear that civil society groups will use the treaty against them for various human-rights violations, including extra-judicial killings.
In his speech at the commemoration of the 9th anniversary of the treaty, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Ryuichiro Yamazaki said Japan acceded to the treaty on July 17 and would formally become the 105th state party to the statute on October 1 this year.
“We will strongly encourage Asian countries, including the Philippines, to ratify the Rome Statute. Once the Philippines becomes a member of the ICC, Japan will work even more closely with your government, and the same will hold true for other Asian nations that will join the ICC,” he said.
“Let me emphasize that the conflicts that continue to rage in different parts of the world make the participation of all nations in the ICC doubly significant. For it is only by bringing to justice all those who have committed crimes against humanity that we can begin to lessen strife, and bring about greater harmony and peace among the nations and peoples of Asia and the rest of the world,” he said.
Yamazaki promised that Japan would become the largest financial donor of the world’s first-ever independent and permanent international criminal court. “Japan will likewise proactively support the ICC’s activities by providing it with as much human resources as possible,” he said.
The ambassador pointed out that one of ICC’s noble intentions was to prosecute those who committed serious crimes against humanity no matter who committed them. Among the positive dimensions of the ICC is that it doesn’t undermine the sovereignty of nations “as it would exercise jurisdiction only where states are unable or unwilling to prosecute their own nationals by themselves,” Yamazaki said.
“As a nation that believes in the ideals of peace, justice, democracy, freedom, and respect for human rights, Japan has always been firm and consistent in its support for the establishment of the ICC,” he said. “[The] ICC deserves the support of nations who value the spirit and principles of international law.”
Yamazaki also announced the nomination of Ms. Fumiko Saiga, Japan’s Ambassador on Human Rights who is also a member of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as a candidate for the election of ICC judges scheduled this December.
The ambassador said Saiga’s becoming an ICC judge will allow Japan to make international criminal and humanitarian laws more effective and visible. He said it would also allow Japan to promote Asian views and sentiments on such matters as justice and peace so that these would be reflected in ICC policies and decisions.
Yamazaki thus sought the support of all ICC member-nations for Saiga’s election to the post of ICC judge and the endorsements by the Philippines and other Asian nations that were not ICC member-states.
The Japanese accession to the treaty runs counter to the lobby of the US government against the treaty. As the last remaining superpower in the world, the US fears that its soldiers in various wars around the world, including those in Iraq, might become subjects of the treaty.
The US signed bilateral immunity agreements with various US allies, including the Philippines, to guarantee that their governments would not seek the prosecution of US soldiers in the ICC in exchange for US financial grants and military support.