The Landmine Law and the Masbate Incident

NAGA CITY (MindaNews) – The tragic murder of young varsity athlete Kieth Absalon and his cousin Nolven Absalon who were riding their bikes when they were hit by a landmine on June 6 at Purok 4, Barangay Anas, Masbate City, already admitted since by the author of the new popular army (NPA), is the most condemnable.

We offer our condolences to the family and friends of the victims and we join them in seeking justice. The just outrage over this landmine incident has invariably included references to violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) on landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) operating in a similar fashion. Allow us to enlighten ourselves on this particular field of legal familiarity as it is relevant to the search for justice, by giving everyone what is due.

At this point, it does not appear to have been established by any physical evidence recovered that the landmine or IED used by the NPA unit was activated by the victim (as if “the front tire of the bicycle had struck the wire. trigger which detonated the device ”) OR commanded (by remote control, usually with a detonating cord, from a safe distance) by waiting ambushes. That there were pending NPA ambushes is established by evidence of gunshot wounds on the victims, apparently to finish them off after a landmine exploded. This scenario is consistent with the long-standing practice of NPA ambush tactics typically involving the triggering of a commanded detonation of a landmine, often of the anti-vehicle type, by standby ambushes.

In view of the hyper-propaganda established on both sides of the armed conflict (the truth, it is said, being the first casualty of the war), we call for a competent independent investigation with the full and honest cooperation of both sides, making reference to the postcode. and the Philippine National Police (PNP), both of which would conduct their own investigations. A competent independent investigation can be conducted by the Human Rights Commission (CHR) with technical assistance from the Philippine civil society humanitarian organization Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL). Thus, such an investigation can be carried out by the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Manila which, by its parameters, would however be of a discreet and even confidential nature, not necessarily for publication.

In the meantime, even pending a sufficient determination of the type of landmine or IED used, we can say with certainty that the NPA has definitely committed violations of IHL on landmines which are punishable by war crimes under the Philippine Law, RA No. 9851 (Philippine Law on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity), but for different specifications on war crimes.

At the IHL level, IF the land mine used was a victim-activated anti-personnel mine (CPM), then what was violated is the 1997 Ottawa Treaty which totally bans such CPAs defined as “a mine designed to explode. by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and which will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons ”, that is to say activated by a person (not a vehicle) generally by pressure, weight or a tripwire. These are inherently blind and have a direct impact on a person’s body, so they have been banned completely for humanitarian reasons. IF the land mine used was an ordered APM (presumably discriminate against a legitimate military target) or any type of anti-vehicle mine (AVM), then what was violated is the 1996 Amended Protocol II on Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices. of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, in particular this one: “It is prohibited in all circumstances to direct weapons to which this article applies,… against the civilian population as such or against civilians.

At the level of RA 9851, IF the landmine used was an MPA activated by the victim, the war crime corresponding to article 4 is that of “(c) (25) Employing means of warfare which are prohibited by the international law, such as:… (iv)) Weapons, projectiles and materials and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering or which are inherently indiscriminate in violation of the international law of armed conflict. “IF the landmine used was a command-triggered MPA, the war crime corresponding to Article 4 is that of” (c) (1) Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not participating in hostilities. Either way, the NPA ambushes in the Masbate incident are believed to be responsible for such war crimes, IF brought to court under RA 9851. The problem is that the NPA does not recognize, and yet less itself, the Philippine legal and judicial system.

However, the NPA recognizes, among others, the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). This includes relevant provisions such as the following: [1] Part II, Article 4: “It is understood that the universally applicable principles and norms of human rights and international humanitarian law contemplated in this Agreement include those set forth in instruments signed by the Philippines and considered to be mutually applicable and acceptable. by both parties. “This should include the 1997 Ottawa Treaty and the 1996 Amended Protocol II. [2] Part III, Article 2, para. 15: “The right not to be subjected to forced evacuations, food and other forms of economic blockade and indiscriminate bombardment, bombardment, machine gunfire, gunfire and the use of landmines. This right of Absalon’s civilian cousins ​​was definitely violated, whatever the nature of the landmine admittedly used by the NPA.

It is incumbent upon, and we challenge, the NPA to show, to prove, that it can deliver justice and commensurate with the horrific and willful murder of the Absalon by an NPA Masbate unit. Do not wait for the late CARHRIHL Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) to act on this matter. What is at stake now is not only the justice that the Absalon family demands, but also the consequent credibility of the NPA and its so-called revolutionary justice system.

(SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR. Is a judge of branch 61 of the RTC in Naga City, president emeritus of the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines and member of the editorial board of the International Review of the Red Cross.)

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