Dr. Raul Cano Pangalangan from the Philippines is a candidate for judge at the ICC. He is the former dean of the law faculty and currently professor of law at the University of the Philippines. He also served as the Philippines’ delegate to the 1998 Rome Conference to establish the ICC. The election will take place as part of a resumed session of the ICC on 24 and 25 June.
“It was at the Rome Conference in 1998 that I encountered for the first time the power of the victims’ rights approach. That was in the debate on forced pregnancy.
“The resistance came from the Holy See – that in effect it would use international law to legalise abortion in domestic jurisdictions. And you can imagine I come from a predominantly Roman Catholic country. And therefore our instruction was to block that by all means.
“The Holy See had a very powerful argument. They said if all you wanted to do was to punish that crime, then there is a catch all provision – that is enough. From a purely prosecutorial standpoint, indeed, that was correct.
“I thought in fact that the argument would win the day until one afternoon there was a panel of the victims of forced pregnancy. They said rather powerfully that ‘well, the prosecutorial standpoint is fine if all you want to do is to punish. But we the victims feel that part of the justice we want is for the global community to assure us that what was committed against us is condemned by humanity. And it should be punished by a name that reflects what was done to us. I felt that that was the forum that was the turning point. And in the end, we ended up with a codification of the crime of forced pregnancy.
“But after the Rome Statute, we actually encountered the debate all over again in the debate about comfort women in the Philippines. Initially, the term used by the UN to characterise what happened to the comfort women – the women who were captured or lured into the camps and kept there to be raped systematically every day for the duration of the war – the term used was slavery. Slavery was the safest legal handle.
“But the comfort women in my country said, ‘you know that kind of slavery is one where people were forced to build railroads. The kind of slavery done to us is an entirely different matter.’ And here the lawyers started debating. ‘Well, we can’t weaken the [definition and] character of the prohibition.’ And eventually – I’ll jump to the end – military sexual slavery is the term that can be used. The crime is the jus cogens one of slavery, and military and sexual are adjectives that can be added to define the kind of slavery.
“So this is for me two episodes where I saw the power of victims’ rights.”
This is an extract from the Q and A session with candidates for the judges’ election held by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court earlier this year. Next week, we will feature the Jordanian candidate.
(Photo:Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan after his appointment to serve at the ICC)