Adapting legal responses to violations in the Philippines: Civil society, the Commission on Human Rights and the war (s) of the roads

Event details


Date & time

Monday 24 September 2018


Coombs Extension 1.13
ANU Canberra


Dr Emma Palmer


Kent Primor

In February 2018, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination into alleged international crimes committed during President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’. This is the first formal ICC examination of alleged international crimes in Southeast Asia, but will highlight frictions between the ICC’s universalist aspirations and the diverse responses to alleged international crimes in the Philippines. These include civil society organisation (CSO) advocacy, monitoring mechanisms, investigations by multiple official agencies and the Commission on Human Rights, an “International Humanitarian Law” Act, and the ratification – and withdrawal from – the Rome Statute. But what are the laws for prosecuting international crimes in the Philippines – and how do they differ from the Rome Statute? How might one assess the relationship between CSOs and the Commission in securing the prosecution of alleged international crimes.

The speaker will address these questions by discussing how international criminal law has been adapted in the Philippines. Drawing on emerging literature concerning the ‘effectiveness’ of National Human Rights Institutions, she will also assess cooperation between the Commission on Human Rights and CSOs across the activities suggested by the ‘Kandy Programme of Action’. Meanwhile, though the Commission on Human Rights has suffered the threat of near-complete defunding, the Duterte government has pursued significant infrastructure investment. Indeed, the Philippines has one of the most comprehensive public-private-partnership regulatory frameworks in the Asia-Pacific region. This raises more questions for international funders about how those affected by such large projects might be protected.


Dr Emma Palmer is a Lecturer at Griffith University Law School. Her research interests include international criminal law, international humanitarian law, human rights and social justice, transitional justice, infrastructure governance, and gender legal and policy issues, especially in the Asia-Pacific. Emma was awarded her PhD for her thesis, “International Criminal Law in Southeast Asia: beyond the International Criminal Court”, from UNSW Law in 2017 and a modified version will be published by Cambridge University Press. States in Southeast Asia exhibit a range of adapted approaches toward prosecuting international crimes. By examining processes of engagement with international criminal justice in Cambodia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, this PhD analysed how international criminal law is adapted in Southeast Asia. It employed an international relations theoretical approach that nuanced categories of the ‘global’ and ‘local’ and demonstrated how norms can be adapted in multiple spatial and temporal directions. It proposed a shift in the focus of those interested in international criminal justice toward recognising existing adaptive responses to international crimes.

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