Former UP Law Dean Raul Cano Pangalangan Retires from the International Criminal Court
Former UP Law Dean Raul Cano Pangalangan has retired as one of the 18 judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Six years ago, he was elected to that body to fill in the post left behind by the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago. He served on the international court from 13 July 2015 to 10 March 2021, with him continuing in office until 16 May 2021. Even before his election, he had been involved with the court, having assisted in drafting the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court itself.
In an interview with Christian Esguerra in ANC’s After The Fact, Dean Pangalangan spoke of his time in the ICC and the nature and inner workings of the “court of last resort,” which tries four classes of crimes of the gravest degree: genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression, and war crimes.
In his words, the goal of the ICC is “to end impunity” in situations where crimes against humanity are committed, and “the accused basically walk free and are never held to account for the crimes they committed.” The prosecution of crimes before the ICC exists not just for the sake of the victims but also, as Dean Pangalangan believes, to attain “closure” for the world after such instances of impunity are tried and decided upon. The judge explained that ICC is a court of last resort. It follows the principle of complementarity, which provides that a case is inadmissible before the ICC if it is under investigation by a state with jurisdiction over it. The ICC only steps in when the authorities are “unwilling or unable genuinely to prosecute.”
Dean Pangalangan also delved into the process of filing cases before the ICC. Contrary to Philippine jurisdiction, where criminal cases may be initiated with a complaint, the process in the ICC begins when its chief prosecutor decides that crimes are being committed in a country and there is a need to investigate. While events in a country are what prompts the ICC to investigate, indictments and the subsequent trials are held against individuals and not the state in question. This is the best guarantee that the process is non-political, as all that is available to the court are the accused, the evidence, and possibly background information to provide historical context.
Dean Pangalangan then responded to several questions raised by Mr. Esguerra concerning immunity, prescription, and withdrawal from the Rome Statute. He explained that sovereign immunity of Heads of State against criminal prosecution is unavailable in the ICC, as expressly stated in the Rome Statute. Also, prescription does not exist for crimes under ICC’s jurisdiction, as having a prescriptive period for crimes of such a nature would defeat the purpose of the ICC, which is to end impunity. Finally, withdrawal from the Rome Statute does not remove the court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed during the time the State was a member.
Regarding how long cases take to be resolved, he admitted that cases before the court do take some time to be resolved, emphasizing that the court deals with large-scale crimes perpetrated across several years. For his part, Dean Pangalangan ascribed his speedy disposition of cases by applying what he had learned in the Philippines, which is by identifying the bottlenecks and other methods to fine-tune the causes of slowdown.
Aside from the workings of the ICC, Dean Pangalangan spoke about issues confronting the court, and improvements that may be made. It is not a new occurrence, he said, that States refuse to cooperate with the court, as the evidence the state may provide could be used against it and its officials. Dean Pangalangan expressed the hope that there would be more judicial cooperation between the ICC and the Rome Statute’s member states to help in prosecuting those guilty of the crimes under the ICC’s jurisdiction.
There is also a need for more ratifications of the Rome Statute, especially from Asian states. Dean Pangalangan shared that Asia has the lowest representation in the court, and without more ratifications, the court will continue to face issues on enforcement of the Statute and gathering of evidence to prosecute.
Dr. Raul Pangalangan was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1984. He received his LL.M and S.J.D. in Harvard and holds the Diplôme of The Hague Academy of International Law. He also sits in the governing councils of Asian Society of International Law, and on the boards of various academic journals. He was Dean of the UP College of Law from 1999 to 2005 and has also been appointed as amicus curiae in leading constitutional law and international law cases before the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
Click the link to access the interview from ANC’s After the Fact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAi9NMDF6TQ