Thanks to his “outstanding” track record and legal expertise as an international lawyer, UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque has been recruited by the Ukrainian government to handle cases of abuse of Ukrainian women by invading Russian forces.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the Philippines Olexander Nechytaylo met with Roque on Friday, May 6, and conveyed his government’s wish for the former presidential spokesperson to join Ukraine’s legal team that will prosecute the cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
“I have decided to reach out to Professor Harry Roque due to his outstanding professional record, deep knowledge of the international criminal law, and vast experience collaborating with various judicial institutions,” Nechytaylo said.
“I was very happy when he responded positively and expressed his readiness to share his expertise and to represent some of the gender-based violence. I hope he will join the international team of lawyers working with Ukraine’s legal team,” he said.
Roque, a staunch human rights advocate, said that he readily accepted the offer because he had been fighting violations of international humanitarian law, especially those committed in armed conflict, in various foreign courts.
Roque said the Ukrainian ambassador discussed several cases, including the rape of a two-year-old and a 72-year-old Ukrainian women, which deeply upset and outraged him.
“My heart bleeds for the Ukrainian people, especially women and innocent children who are always war casualties,” Roque said. “This bloodbath must stop now because it has horrified the global community and seriously affected both rich and fledgling economies.”
A former law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) and one of the founders of the advocacy group Center for International Law (Centerlaw), Roque prosecuted the cases of the “Malaya Lolas"--the Filipino victims of systematic rape and abuse by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
Other international cases handled by Roque included the Myrna Reblando et al. vs. Republic of the Philippines, the first-ever communication filed by the widows of the Maguindanao massacre with the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights to declare the Philippine government in breach of its obligation to protect and promote the right to life of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre; and the Adonis vs. Republic of the Philippines Communication with the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva impugning the legality of criminal libel in the Philippines, in which the committee issued the view that Philippine Criminal Libel Law infringed Art. 19 on Freedom of Expression under the ICCPR.
Roque also represented the family of transgender Jennifer Laude, an American serviceman killed in Olongapo, the family of the murdered environmental advocate and media man Gerry Ortega of Palawan; and the families of journalists killed in the Maguindanao massacre.
Nechytaylo said the Russian military has committed numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale war on Feb. 24 this year.
He said that Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General conducts thorough investigations, collects the evidence, witnesses’ testimonies, and identifies the suspects for prosecution.
“Given the scale of the atrocities, we may consider initiating the establishment of a special court - the International Criminal Tribunal for Ukraine akin to the similar courts for Rwanda and Yugoslavia,” Nechytaylo said.