The verdict came after three days of hearing testimony on political killings, abductions and other alleged violations of human, economic, civil and political rights in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Read by tribunal president François Houtart of Belgium , the verdict linked the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations to the US-led "war on terror" and said these were "committed with the support and full awareness of the [US] government" and thus qualified as "crimes against humanity, with all the consequences for the persons who are responsible for them."
Among the verdict's findings was the existence of what it called "the politics of impunity" and the government's "attitude of denial," noting that "Even the most brutal atrocities hardly elicit any decisive action or even oral condemnation" from the administration.
It noted the administration's hedging on releasing the report of the Palace-created Melo Commission and that the findings of UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston, which said most of the murders were linked to the military, were "totally denied and even derided by the government."
The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal is an international opinion tribunal, independent from any State authority. It examines and judges complaints regarding violations of human rights and rights of peoples that are submitted by the victims themselves or groups representing them. The Tribunal was founded in June 1979 in Italy by law experts, writers and other intellectuals. It succeeded the Russell Tribunals I and II or the International War Crimes Tribunal, which held two sessions in 1967 to expose the war crimes committed against the Vietnamese people.
In 1980, the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal convened a Session on the Philippines to hear the case against the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, at the suit of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). It was the first international juridical body to condemn the US sponsored Marcos dictatorship. Marcos was later deposed through a popular uprising in February 1986.
Arroyo and Bush, Jr. were found guilty of charges ranging from systematic violations of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights to violations of national self-determination and liberation committed against the Filipino people. Bush in particular was indicted for his role in renewed military intervention and for supporting Arroyo’s brutal counter-insurgency program in the guise of counter-terrorism.
Initiators of the charges said the political killings, forced disappearances, torture and other violations of human rights escalated in the context of the U.S.-backed counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism programs of Arroyo.
Asia Journal reports the verdict issued by the international forum of lawyers and human rights experts against the Arroyo government will be sent to the United Nations (UN), International Court of Justice (ICJ) and other world bodies to focus "world attention on the human rights crisis in the Philippines."
A statement from the tribunal secretariat quoted its general secretary, Gianni Tognoni, as saying that, aside from the UN and ICJ, the verdict would also be sent to the European Parliament and "various foreign governments" with the aim of getting world opinion to "add more pressure [on] the US-supported Arroyo government to stop the killings."
Although the verdict "may be legally non-binding, it is nevertheless morally binding," tribunal president François Houtart of Belgium said.
The tribunal called the Philippines' membership in the UN Human Rights Council "unacceptable" because it "undermines the credibility of the UN in this field, is an intolerable offense to the victims;" and "a denial of the many well documented denunciations of the dramatic violations of human rights in the Philippines."
It also called "sharp attention to the safety of the witnesses who courageously have contributed to the fact-finding task of the tribunal. If anything would happen to any of them, we will hold the government of the Philippines responsible for that."
Among the witnesses who appeared before the tribunal was Senator Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal, who, according to the statement, described the country as "ruled by a military junta with…Arroyo acting only as a figurehead."
It also quoted Madrigal as saying that the verdict "will dispel the claims of the Arroyo government that there is democracy in the Philippines."
Others who testified, either in person or through a video hookup from the Philippines were Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan; Dr. Constancio "Chandu" Claver; Dr. June P. Lopez, an expert in handling torture and trauma victims; retired Navy captain Danilo Vizmanos; UP Faculty Regent Roland Simbulan; Bishop Elmer Bolocon of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and Ecumenical Bishops Forum; Elmer Labog, chair of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement); and Danilo Ramos of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines).
Other tribunal jurors were Japanese novelist and social activist Oda Makoto; Dutch criminal law professor Ties Prakken; Norwegian lawyer and former foreign ministry officer Oystein Tveter, Malaysian social development expert Irene Fernandez, and Colombian Lilia Solano.
The following article comes from Bulatlat (Philippines).
Victims’ Kin Welcome Guilty Verdict on Arroyo, Bush by Int’l Tribunal
BY EMILY VITAL
Families of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations welcomed the verdict of an international tribunal declaring both the Arroyo and Bush governments guilty of crimes against humanity.
In a press conference in Quezon City, Monday, Dee Ayroso, coordinator of Desaparecidos, said in Filipino, “The verdict of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is a big victory for all of us. Let the whole world know that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush are criminals.”
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) released its 13-page verdict Sunday, around 2pm at the Pax Christikerk in The Hague, the Netherlands. Francois Houtart, president of the PPT’s Second Session on the Philippines, read out the verdict after three continuous days of hearing testimonies from at least 13 witnesses.
Houtart described the extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, massacres, torture and other atrocities allegedly committed by the Arroyo government as “crimes against humanity”. Such violations which the PPT said were in no way justified as “necessary measures against terrorism,” said Houtart.
Evangeline Hernandez, spokesperson of Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) and mother of slain human rights advocate Benjaline Hernandez, said, “Now, we stand on a high moral ground. We have come a long way to seek justice. The international community has seen the true face of Arroyo.”
Hernandez added, “We, the relatives of numerous victims of extrajudicial killings, are no longer fearful or ashamed.”
Houtart warned that the Arroyo government will be held accountable if something happens to the witnesses who testified before the PPT.
Ayroso said, “We hope that the PPT’s findings will pave the way for the ouster of Arroyo.”
In 1980, the PPT’s First Session on the Philippines declared Marcos guilty of human rights abuses. The dictator was ousted in 1986 through a popular uprising.
Aside from Houtart, who is from Belgium and Director of the Centre Tricontinental (Cetri), the PPT jurors included Oda Makoto (Japan), well-known novelist and social activist; Ties Prakken (The Netherlands), professor in criminal law Maastricht University; Oystein Tveter (Norway), lawyer and former Director of the Karibu Foundation and former foreign ministry official in South Africa and Zambia; Irene Fernandez (Malaysia), lawyer, social development expert and head of Tenaganita; and Lilia Solano (Colombia), 2005 Right Livelihood Awardee (alternative Nobel) and Director of Project for Life and Peace.
The PPT jurors also found ‘unacceptable’ the membership of the Philippines in the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying it is an ‘intolerable offense’ to the victims.
Meanwhile, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) disputed Malacañang’s claim that the PPT is a mere black propaganda. Reyes pointed out that the respondents were invited to attend the hearings through their embassies in Rome and in The Hague. “They (Arroyo and Bush) waived their right to defend themselves and to air their side.”
Bayan is also one of the complainants in the case against Arroyo.