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Ex-PHL officials sue Xi before ICC over actions in South China Sea

Former Philippine officials have sued Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials for allegedly committing crimes against humanity in connection with China's activities to gain control over most of the South China Sea.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales filed the case before the International Criminal Court on March 15 or two days before the Philippines' exit from the tribunal.

Under its rules, the court may still act on cases related to the Philippines while the Philippines was a member from November 1, 2011 until March 17.

“The situation is both unique and relevant because it presents one of the most massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment in humanity’s history,” read a statement Del Rosario sent to GMA News Online.

“It adversely affects and injures not only myriad groups of vulnerable fishermen, including 320,000 Filipino fishermen, but also present and future generations of people across nations,” it added.

China’s moves to restrict access to areas in the resource-rich waters, the statement said, has “seriously undermined the food and energy security of the coastal states in the South China Sea, including the Philippines.”

The “grave consequences of such actions, it said, justify the ICC’s involvement “as it affirms one of the principles of the Rome Statute that “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished and their effective prosecution must be ensured....”

China’s restrictive actions in the South China Sea have worried its smaller neighbors, like the Philippines, due to its massive claim that encroaches on their sovereign territories.  Beijing said its claims over the waters are “indisputable” and anchored on history that is backed by ancient maps and documents.

The Philippines challenged this claim before an international arbitral tribunal, which ruled in Manila’s favor in July 2016 and invalidated China’s claim. Beijing has ignored and belittled the ruling.

Manila and five other governments have been contesting ownership of the strategic waters and island chains for decades. China asserts sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, where undersea oil and gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

The ICC is an independent international body, separate from the United Nations system, and the first permanent international court that deals specifically with the gravest crimes facing humanity, such as genocide. It also prosecutes individuals for war crimes and aggression.

ICC came into being on July 1, 2002 - the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, entered into force. It can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date.

“These atrociously inhumane actions of Chinese officials in the South China Sea and within Philippine territory remain unpunished, and it is only the ICC that can exact accountability on behalf of Filipinos and the international community, respecting the rule of law,” the statement said. —NB, GMA News