Roque inclusion in international law body would be 'inappropriate, unacceptable' — lawyers' group

Roque inclusion in international law body would be 'inappropriate, unacceptable' � lawyers' group
This undated photo shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque conducting a press conference.
Office of the Presidential Spokesperson Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — Lawyers who have raised human rights issues as issues of international law have joined growing opposition to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque's nomination to the International Law Commission.

Twenty-four members of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers wrote to member-states of the United Nations to say that Roque's nomination to the ILC is "inappropriate and unacceptable."

They said that the "IADL opposes the nomination to the ILC of representatives of governments violating international law, notably the Charter of the United Nations and or the Charter of Human Rights."

The IADL is a worldwide body of lawyers from over 90 countries and has contributed to the development of international law, they said in their letter-statement.

On its website, IADL says its members "have participated in the struggles that have made the violation of human rights of groups and individuals and threats to international peace and security, legal issues under international law."

IADL members "throughout the globe have protested racism, colonialism, and economic and political injustice wherever they interfere with legal and human rights, often at the cost of these jurists personal safety and economic well being," it also said.

Defense of 'war on drugs', vilification of opposition

In opposing Roque’s bid to join the ILC, the lawyers noted Roque’s defense of President Rodrigo Duterte and the bloody "war on drugs."

They also noted that the former human rights lawyer “vilified and casted aspersions on his own colleagues in the legal profession, his peers in his very own alma mater, and other Filipino and solidarity groups in the Philippines and in New York who have interposed bona fide objections to his nomination and candidacy.”

"To allow Mr. Roque to be elected to the Commission, therefore, is incompatible with its mandate, may contaminate its reputation and prestige and might unduly compromise its credibility," the lawyers also said.

"At its core, his election will be adding insult to the irreparable injury to the victims of continuing human rights violations in the Philippines."

Roque says unfazed by growing opposition

But Roque, in a briefing on Tuesday, dismissed an earlier letter-statement of 152 of his colleagues in the legal profession, as he pointed out that they only compose a small fraction of the tens of thousands of lawyers in the country.

"They are opposing us because we supposedly have guilty by association to [Duterte] by being a spokesperson. First, there is no such thing as that… Second, there is no proven crime against Duterte," he said in Filipino.

The International Criminal Court is investigating allegations of crimes against humanity in the Philippines in the course of the Duterte administration’s "war on drugs."

"The needed qualification for the [ILC] is proven expertise in the field of international law. I will accept the judgment of different states of the world this coming Friday," Roque added.

The Free Legal Assistance Group also sent at least two letters to the ILC, expressing their objection to Roque’s nomination to sit in the panel. Roque’s nomination also earned objection from the University of the Philippines, Diliman where he obtained his law degree and taught constitutional law and public international law for 15 years.

The UN General Assembly on November 12 can elect Roque to the ILC as one of eight representatives from Asia-Pacific states to sit for five years beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

The commission was instrumental in the creation of the International Criminal Court as it helped draft the statute that created the tribunal that tries genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. — Kristine Joy Patag

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