'Attacks vs UN peacekeepers may constitute war crimes'

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 21 2013 06:45 PM | Updated as of Jul 22 2013 02:45 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- Attacks against United Nations (UN) peacekeepers may constitute war crimes, a prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has reiterated.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office, in a statement released on Friday, cited the latest attack on UN peacekeepers in the Darfur region of Sudan.

“The prosecutor reminds all parties to the conflict that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction in Darfur,” Bensouda’s office said. “The office will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those alleged to have committed such crimes should national authorities fail to.”

It also calls on the government of Sudan to carry out a prompt and full investigation and to hold all those responsible to account for the attack.

Seven peacekeepers serving with the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur were killed and 17 military and police personnel were wounded in the attack.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council condemned the ambush as one of the most serious attacks against the mission since its deployment in early 2008, and the third in the past few weeks.

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern –genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely. Its headquarters is in The Hague, Netherlands.

Darfur is one of eight situations currently under investigation by the ICC. The others are northern Uganda, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire.

Luxembourg has joined the UN and the United States in an appeal to the Philippines not to withdraw its 340-member contingent to the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights.

Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Asselborn asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario during his visit to Luxembourg about the Philippine position on the peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights following Austria’s pullout.

“I encourage you to stay. I say it in the name of the Security Council,” Asselborn told del Rosario during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry.

Del Rosario said 340 of the 1,250 regular peacekeepers in Golan Heights are from the Philippines.

“We are the only ones left. Our people were abducted twice and so we took a good look at it and sent an assessment team. We believe in the work we are doing but we look at the safety of our people,” Del Rosario said.