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The Agreement Not in Contravention of the Rome Statute

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Assignment Cases
The Agreement Not in Contravention of the Rome Statute

It is the petitioner’s next contention that the Agreement undermines the establishment of the ICC and is null and void insofar as it unduly restricts the ICC’s jurisdiction and infringes upon the effectivity of the Rome Statute. Petitioner posits that the Agreement was constituted solely for the purpose of providing individuals or groups of individuals with immunity from the jurisdiction of the ICC; and such grant of immunity through non-surrender agreements allegedly does not legitimately fall within the scope of Art. 98 of the Rome Statute. It concludes that state parties with non-surrender agreements are prevented from meeting their obligations under the Rome Statute, thereby constituting a breach of Arts. 27,50 86,51 8952 and 9053 thereof.

Petitioner stresses that the overall object and purpose of the Rome Statute is to ensure that those responsible for the worst possible crimes are brought to justice in all cases, primarily by states, but as a last resort, by the ICC; thus, any agreement—like the non-surrender agreement—that precludes the ICC from exercising its complementary function of acting when a state is unable to or unwilling to do so, defeats the object and purpose of the Rome Statute.

Petitioner would add that the President and the DFA Secretary, as representatives of a signatory of the Rome Statute, are obliged by the imperatives of good faith to refrain from performing acts that substantially devalue the purpose and object of the Statute, as signed. Adding a nullifying ingredient to the Agreement, according to petitioner, is the fact that it has an immoral purpose or is otherwise at variance with a priorly executed treaty.

Contrary to petitioner’s pretense, the Agreement does not contravene or undermine, nor does it differ from, the Rome Statute. Far from going against each other, one complements the other. As a matter of fact, the principle of complementarity underpins the creation of the ICC. As aptly pointed out by respondents and admitted by petitioners, the jurisdiction of the ICC is to "be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions [of the signatory states]."54 Art. 1 of the Rome Statute pertinently provides:

Article 1

The Court

An International Crimininal Court ("the Court") is hereby established. It x x x shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute, and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions. The jurisdiction and functioning of the Court shall be governed by the provisions of this Statute. (Emphasis ours.)

Significantly, the sixth preambular paragraph of the Rome Statute declares that "it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes." This provision indicates that primary jurisdiction over the so-called international crimes rests, at the first instance, with the state where the crime was committed; secondarily, with the ICC in appropriate situations contemplated under Art. 17, par. 155 of the Rome Statute.

Of particular note is the application of the principle of ne bis in idem56 under par. 3 of Art. 20, Rome Statute, which again underscores the primacy of the jurisdiction of a state vis-a-vis that of the ICC. As far as relevant, the provision states that "no person who has been tried by another court for conduct x x x [constituting crimes within its jurisdiction] shall be tried by the [International Criminal] Court with respect to the same conduct x x x."

The foregoing provisions of the Rome Statute, taken collectively, argue against the idea of jurisdictional conflict between the Philippines, as party to the non-surrender agreement, and the ICC; or the idea of the Agreement substantially impairing the value of the RP’s undertaking under the Rome Statute. Ignoring for a while the fact that the RP signed the Rome Statute ahead of the Agreement, it is abundantly clear to us that the Rome Statute expressly recognizes the primary jurisdiction of states, like the RP, over serious crimes committed within their respective borders, the complementary jurisdiction of the ICC coming into play only when the signatory states are unwilling or unable to prosecute.

Given the above consideration, petitioner’s suggestion––that the RP, by entering into the Agreement, violated its duty required by the imperatives of good faith and breached its commitment under the Vienna Convention57 to refrain from performing any act tending to impair the value of a treaty, e.g., the Rome Statute––has to be rejected outright. For nothing in the provisions of the Agreement, in relation to the Rome Statute, tends to diminish the efficacy of the Statute, let alone defeats the purpose of the ICC. Lest it be overlooked, the Rome Statute contains a proviso that enjoins the ICC from seeking the surrender of an erring person, should the process require the requested state to perform an act that would violate some international agreement it has entered into. We refer to Art. 98(2) of the Rome Statute, which reads:

Article 98
Cooperation with respect to waiver of immunity
and consent to surrender

x x x x

2. The Court may not proceed with a request for surrender which would require the requested State to act inconsistently with its obligations under international agreements pursuant to which the consent of a sending State is required to surrender a person of that State to the Court, unless the Court can first obtain the cooperation of the sending State for the giving of consent for the surrender.

Moreover, under international law, there is a considerable difference between a State-Party and a signatory to a treaty. Under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a signatory state is only obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty;58 whereas a State-Party, on the other hand, is legally obliged to follow all the provisions of a treaty in good faith.

In the instant case, it bears stressing that the Philippines is only a signatory to the Rome Statute and not a State-Party for lack of ratification by the Senate. Thus, it is only obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of the Rome Statute. Any argument obliging the Philippines to follow any provision in the treaty would be premature.

As a result, petitioner’s argument that State-Parties with non-surrender agreements are prevented from meeting their obligations under the Rome Statute, specifically Arts. 27, 86, 89 and 90, must fail. These articles are only legally binding upon State-Parties, not signatories.

Furthermore, a careful reading of said Art. 90 would show that the Agreement is not incompatible with the Rome Statute. Specifically, Art. 90(4) provides that "[i]f the requesting State is a State not Party to this Statute the requested State, if it is not under an international obligation to extradite the person to the requesting State, shall give priority to the request for surrender from the Court. x x x" In applying the provision, certain undisputed facts should be pointed out: first, the US is neither a State-Party nor a signatory to the Rome Statute; and second, there is an international agreement between the US and the Philippines regarding extradition or surrender of persons, i.e., the Agreement. Clearly, even assuming that the Philippines is a State-Party, the Rome Statute still recognizes the primacy of international agreements entered into between States, even when one of the States is not a State-Party to the Rome Statute.

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