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National liberation groups have a legal right to armed struggle – IHL experts

“Let it be loud and clear: there is categorical recognition on the rights that underpin the legal status of armed movements under international law,” said Atty. Edre Olalia, Transitional President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) during a webinar on the legal basis of the right to resist last 3 March organized by IADL and the Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle (FFPS).

Olalia refers to the right of national liberation movements such as those in Palestine and the Philippines to use armed force in the exercise of their right to resist illegal occupation as well as (direct or indirect) foreign domination. He points to numerous resolutions agreed upon by the United Nations General Assembly pertaining to the legitimacy of waging armed struggle to secure the right to self-determination including in the UN Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights among other international treaties.

What therefore is wrong with armed struggle? Nothing. Armed struggle by national liberation movements is recognized under international law as legally permissible and a is a valid and legitimate response in the exercise of the inherent right of peoples to self-determination against systemic and systematic oppression, exploitation, and repression of peoples.

Atty. Edre Olalia

Olalia further called out the Marcos administration for purportedly “observing” international humanitarian law despite glaring evidence of IHL violations in the context of the 55-year armed conflict with the belligerent New People’s Army (NPA) led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“The Philippine government have cynically used the rhetoric of observing the laws of war. In fact, it even has legislated a so-called ‘domestic IHL law’ but in practice that law is being used against the people who are resisting to suppress their basic right to liberation,” concluded Olalia.

Pertaining to the Palestinian armed resistance, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) President Suzanne Adely explains how “self-determination is rarely achieved without the use of force and armed struggle. Failing to acknowledge resistance movements would lead to an illogical situation where alien occupation would go unchallenged rendering any resistance against their illegal status illegal itself.”

“The illegal occupation of Palestine represents an unlawful use of force. As the foreign occupying force and as the aggressor, Israel has no right to self-defense whereas the right of Palestine to self-defense is clear,” Adely said.

The webinar is part of a series of discussions in the run up to the International Peoples’ Tribunal 2024 which is set on May 18 to 19 in Europe. Convened by IADL and FFPS, the IPT 2024 seeks to investigate war crime charges against the US-supported Marcos and Duterte regimes.