Int’l group urges gov’t to ratify global human rights treaty

By DateLine Philippines

A global coalition of 2,500 human rights groups called on governments, including the Philippines, to ratify the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that punishes crimes against humanity including sexual crimes against women.

The Coalition for the ICC, an organization of 2,500 rights groups from 150 countries, said the court which started operations in July 2006 pushes for justice for women who are commonly subjected to sexual crimes during war.

It also called on governments that have ratified the statute to implement its landmark gender provisions at the national level.

“Today, the Coalition wishes to recall the importance of the Rome Statute as a powerful instrument for protecting women’s rights,“ the CICC said in a statement marking International Women’s Day on Monday.

William Pace, CICC convenor, said the Rome Statute is one of the first international treaties to extensively address gender-based crimes as crimes against humanity, war crimes, and in some instances, genocide.

He said the statute recognizes rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced sterilizations, gender-based persecutions, trafficking of persons particularly women and children, and sexual violence as among the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.

“Countries are strongly encouraged to bring their national laws in line with the standards enshrined in the Rome Statute, both in terms of criminalizing the serious crimes contained in the Statute and by assuring that laws make full cooperation with the Court possible,” said Pace.

The CICC head stressed that International Women’s Day helps bring into sharper focus the urgency of the work of the Court to end impunity for crimes against women.

The Women’s Day celebration also reminds civil society to push their governments committed to the Rome Statute to continually move forward with effective and comprehensive implementation so that protection of women’s rights are guaranteed at both national and international levels, Pace added.

“The Coalition and women’s organization around the world will continue to make sure that violence and persecution of women are treated as they are: serious criminal and humanitarian law violations,” he said.

The Philippines, under the Arroyo administration, has refused to transmit the instruments of ratification of the Rome Statute to the Senate for deliberations.

Women’s organizations in the Philippines said police and military leaders fear facing harassment suits from rights groups as government operations against terrorists in Mindanao and Marxist rebels result to violation of human rights of communities.

Senator Pia Cayetano, head of the committee of women of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), called on more women representation in global parliaments to advance the rights of women particularly on the right to maternal health.

In her address before the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York, Cayetano said men continue to dominate membership in national parliaments all over the world despite significant gains in women’s empowerment and participation in governance in recent years.

She also said just one out of every five lawmakers (18.8%) in the world today is a woman.

“Even in these modern times where women have become more politically aware and socially empowered, the hard and sad fact is that men continue to write the laws of our world,” Cayetano stressed.

More than 140 representatives from 150 countries attended the main conference and side meetings held at the UN Headquarters in New York from March 2-4.

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