Skip to main content

Professor Cohn Testifies in Washington, D.C. as Expert Witness on International Human Rights Violations in the Philippines

July 24, 2015

Professor Cohn Testifies in Washington, D.C.

The International Peoples’ Tribunal on Crimes Against the Filipino People, held July 16-18 in Washington, D.C., drew upward of 300 people where Professor Marjorie Cohn testified as an expert witness on international human rights violations in the Philippines. An international panel of seven jurors heard two days of testimony from 32 witnesses, many of whom had been tortured, arbitrarily detained and forcibly evicted from their land. Some testified to being present when their loved ones, including children, were gunned down by the Philippine military or paramilitary. Professor Marjorie Cohn’s testimony included the following:

“As part of the US war on terror, in 2002, the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government created the Oplan Bantay Laya, a counter-insurgency program modeled on US counter-insurgency, ostensibly to fight communist guerrilla fighters. The Benigno Aquino III government continued the program in 2011 under the name of Oplan Bayanihan. It does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, which is considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Hundreds of activists who belonged to progressive organizations were murdered by the Philippine military and paramilitary death squads.

“Oplan Bayanihan has also led to tremendous repression, including large numbers of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and cruel treatment. Civilians, including children, have been targeted and killed. Some bodies have been desecrated, which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions; the Philippines is a party to Protocol I.

“The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) provides for aiding & abetting liability for war crimes. An individual can be convicted of a war crime in the ICC if he or she ‘aids, abets or otherwise assists’ in the commission or attempted commission of the crime. This includes ‘providing the means for its commission.’ Between 2001 and 2010, the US has given more than $507 million in military aid to the Philippine government, which has enabled it to commit war crimes. US political and military leaders could be liable for war crimes as aiders and abettors in the ICC.”

The tribunal documented 262 cases of extrajudicial killings, 27 cases of forced disappearances, 125 cases of torture, 1,016 cases of illegal arrest, and 60,155 incidents of forced evacuation-many to make way for extraction by mining companies-from July 2010 to June 30 of this year by Philippine police, military, paramilitary or other state agents operating within the chain of command.