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Extrajudicial killings and repression

International Peoples’ Tribunal Condemns US and Philippine Leaders for War Crimes

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On Saturday, May 19 in Brussels, the International Peoples' Tribunal (IPT) issued a "guilty" verdict on charges of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law against current Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, former President Rodrigo Duterte, US President Joe Biden and the governments of the Philippines and the USA.

The verdict was given after two days of hearings that included testimony from witnesses, victims of human rights violations, and representatives of organizations that fight for human rights in the Philippines. 

The IPT is a quasi-judicial forum convened by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle (FFPS). It was presided over by a panel of five international jurors, composed of members of lawyers' associations, members of parliaments and a former archbishop. Its conclusions have been submitted to the International Court of Justice by the Dutch chapter of FPSS on May 21.

Among those testifying before the Tribunal was Emile Fausto. His parents, who were farmworkers organizers, and his two younger brothers, were murdered in June 2023 after facing years of "red tagging".

​​"We demand justice for the killing of our family," Fausto told the audience. "They were innocent, and I suspect no one else but the military themselves." 

Image credit to NG and HSat, IPT Media Team

"Red tagging" is the practice of associating anyone fighting for change in the Philippines with the New People's Army (NPA), exploiting the armed conflict between the coalition of which the NPA is a member, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and the government of the Philippines as an excuse for repression.

The NDFP aims, in its own words, "for national liberation and democracy [which] seeks to provide a broad base of unity for all social classes, sectors, groups and individual Filipinos, here and abroad, desiring genuine national freedom and democracy, lasting peace and progressive Philippines".

Eufemia Cullamat, a Lumad (Indigenous) Filipina farmer, and former member of the Philippine House of Representatives, testified about the execution of her daughter, an unarmed member of the New People's Army, in 2020: 

"The military paraded Jevelyn’s body without mercy and respect. They say my daughter died in a military encounter with the NPA. To prove this, the military arranged her body and deliberately placed a gun on her chest to show that she held it."

Lumad farmer Eufemia Cullamat. Image credit to NG and HSat, IPT Media Team

Evidence given at the Tribunal exposed a pattern of failure to comply with International Humanitarian Law and violations of the rules of war by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the conduct of its 50 year armed conflict with the revolutionary movement led by the NDFP.

It further exposed a pattern of using the existence of the armed conflict to justify extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arrests, torture, and imprisonment against legal organizations and communities of farmers, Indigenous people, workers, students and other sectors of Philippine society. 

The Tribunal also heard expert evidence showing the role of the United States in human rights abuses and war crimes in the Philippines, including US$1.14 billion in military "aid" since 2015 and the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops in joint military exercises. 

The ruling concludes that "the evidence presented individually and collectively supported the allegation that the whole-of-nation approach, the heavy bombardment and forced displacement of communities, and the killing of civilians and persons hors de combat by state forces would not have been possible without the direction, arms, and training provided by the US government."

Séverine de Laveleye, member of the Belgian parliament and juror for the trial, commented on the panel's general conclusions and the current political situation in the Philippines:

"We found substantial and compelling evidence of widespread extrajudicial killings, civilian massacres, enforced disappearances, indiscriminate bombings, and other gross violations of international humanitarian law. The atrocities and anti-people policies and actions of Mr. Duterte appear to persist and intensify under the current Marcos Jr. administration."

"Our decision is founded on the comprehensive examination of the evidence presented. The testimonies of the witnesses, many of whom have shown tremendous courage by coming forward, played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of the systemic abuses perpetrated under these regimes with the tacit support of the US."

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