Can ICC do an Isser Harel?

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - June 20, 2021 - 12:00am

In a less-prominent corner of the high school library of the University of the Visayas, there was this framed quote of Francis Bacon: “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” I was then in the third of my secondary school years. To be honest, I didn’t comprehend what it meant. But I tried to develop the habit of reading when, in a later time I learned that by reading, one is able to fill his mind with knowledge pertaining to a miscellany of subjects. A further explanation from the internet says that “Literature often enables a person to enter and explore territories which are difficult to enter or explore in person, or it expands the imaginative aspect of the mind.

I once picked a pocketbook from a fresh arrival of paperbacks at our shop then, the Oriental Book Store, now closed. The book was entitled “The House on Garibaldi Street” written by Isser Harel. It was a story about an operation conducted by the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, in Argentina. The Israelis discovered that Nazi officer Adolph Eichmann, a key architect of the holocaust and who supervised various extermination camps, escaped from Germany at the end of World War II and lived in Argentina under an assumed name. Mossad agents literarily kidnapped Eichmann to answer for his war crimes.

True to the off-tangent nature of this column, I remember Bacon’s words and Harel probably relevant to the earth-shaking news from the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor. In a document released Monday, June 14, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said "the Prosecution requests the Chamber to authorize the commencement of an investigation into the situation in the Philippines, in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the War on Drugs campaign, as well as any other crimes which are sufficiently linked to these events."

When that news sprang out, the bitter critics of President Duterte’s illegal drug war speculated farther. To me their voices appeared more vibrant and credible compared to the defensive statements mainly issued by the president’s spokesman. The critics claimed that soon, the ICC will issue a warrant of arrest against our president. But they too got stupefied by the question: “who would dare enforce the warrant?”

Arrest is an essential part of a criminal prosecution. A case can proceed when the accused is brought within the jurisdiction of the court. Only when the accused is arrested and brought to the court can the case against him proceed. Applying these basic precepts to the reportedly expected action of the ICC on the recommendation of the office of the prosecutor, we face the veritable chance of the supposed case against President Duterte to gather dust. The case will not move because no one will arrest the president.

In his book, Harel and Mossad agents clandestinely entered Argentina, surveilled Eichmann, kidnapped him, and spirited him out of that South American country. It’s probable that international enforcement agencies, upon the suggestion of Francis Bacon, may read the papers of Harel and reprise what Mossad did. This must be more thrilling than the fiction that Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, and Frederick Forsythe wrote.

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