DOJ says MILF combatants cannot be charged in international court of justice

February 25, 2015 5:44 am 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Feb. 24 (PNA) -– Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday clarified that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who allegedly killed the Special Action Force (SAF) men during Mamasapano incident should be subjected to the Philippines courts and not in the international court of justice.

De Lima made this clarification after MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal claimed that the MILF fighters who engaged in the Mamasapano incident will be submitted to the jurisdiction of the international court of justice “if it is in the nature of a war crime.”

”In so far as this whole issue is concerned in the Mamasapano incident in relation to the peace process, MILF here is a non-state actor involved in a non-international armed conflict,” De Lima explained to the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that conducted hearing on the Mamasapano incident.

The DOJ chief said the Philippines has capability of executing its laws like the investigation being done by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) team on the killing of the 44 SAF commandos last January 25.

”It’s working. We are the state and we have the power to enforce our laws and we have the power to compel people to submit themselves to the criminal justice system of this country,” she explained to Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.

Earlier, Senator Aquino asked Iqbal on what the MILF will do if their combatants will be found guilty based on the MILF investigation.

”If it is in the nature of a war crime, we have to submit to the jurisdiction of the international court of justice. That’s the body that has jurisdiction over war crimes,” Iqbal replied.

De Lima explained the MILF can only resort to international court on war crimes “if it established that what was really committed really constitute war crimes under international law and our own domestic law.”

”If our domestic authorities aren’t able to work, meaning we are unable, unwilling or failed to investigate or prosecute, they can resort to the international criminal court on war crimes. That is very clear under both international laws,” De Lima further explained.

Iqbal said the MILF is conducting its own investigation although he recommended also the creation of separate independent body to look into the incident specifically to reports that the firearms taken by the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fighters have been cannibalized.

The MILF official also vehemently denied that they are coddling terrorists specifically high-profile terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan" and Basit Usman, the main targets of the Jan. 25 Oplan Exodus in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

”We have no relations with terrorists and terrorist organization. We are not coddling Marwan and Usman. That’s why we’re cooperating with the government with the fullest extent that the terrorists will be eliminated,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal went on saying that the terrorists are plagues in the society.

”The terrorists are unlike the revolutionary that the legitimate target are the combatants. The terrorists plant bombs that affect even children, elderly, women,” Iqbal said.

Meanwhile, Iqbal said the MILF will continue to show gesture of good faith by convincing their commanders and fighters to give up their firearms, including the remaining weapons taken by their combatants from the fallen SAF 44.

”We will return the firearms and even the personal effects if there are still at the hands of our fighters,” Iqbal said.

He said the MILF is committed to push through the peace process “because we might be facing bigger problem in the future if we will not push through the peace process.”

”On our part, we are willing to do anything that is possible for us to do. We promised that the remaining firearms will be turned over to the PNP as soon as we would have that firearms with us,” Iqbal said.

On the circulated video showing a combatant killing a wounded SAF trooper, Iqbal said not only the killer should be charged criminally but also those who uploaded the videos. (PNA)

LAM/JFM

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