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ICC bent on probing Philippine drug war

The Hague-based International Criminal Court’s prosecutor appears determined to continue looking at drug war-related criminal allegations against President Rodrigo Duterte, only months away before Manila’s withdrawal from the tribunal becomes effective.

Manila’s withdrawal from the ICC becomes effective on March 17 next year.

But in its report, the ICC said it “retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that have occurred on the territory of the Philippines during the period when it was a State Party to the [Rome] Statute.”

The ICC, intended to complement existing national judicial systems, has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

In a report published Wednesday, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said it was continuing its assessment of available information to determine if there is “reasonable basis” to believe that the allegations fall under the ICC’s subject-matter jurisdiction.

Other countries included in the ICC jurisdiction report are Myanmar, Bangladesh, Ukraine, and Venezuela.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary examination of accusations of crimes against humanity against Duterte in February this year.

Based on Bensouda’s report, Duterte and other senior government officials are accused of promoting and encouraging “the killing of suspected or purported drug users and/or dealers, and in such a context, members of PNP forces and private individuals [such as vigilante groups] have carried out thousands of killings throughout the Philippines,” particularly in Metro Manila.

It cited 12,000 deaths due either to involvement in drug use or drug-dealing, mistaken identity, or as collateral damage in the anti-drug operations of Philippine police.

Of this number, the report said 4,800 deaths allegedly took place during police operations.

It also noted claims thousands have been killed by unknown assailants, and that police officer were behind or themselves committed vigilante-style killings.

The Court shall have jurisdiction in respect of war crimes in particular when committed as part of a plan or policy or as part of a large-scale commission of such crimes. 

2. For the purpose of this Statute, “war crimes” means: 

(a) Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of Aug. 12, 1949, namely, any of the following acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention: 

(i) Willful killing; 

(ii) Torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments; 

(iii) Willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health; 

(iv) Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; 

(v) Compelling a prisoner of war or other protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power; 

(vi) Willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial; 

(vii) Unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement; 

(viii) Taking of hostages. 

Duterte’s previous announcement the Philippines was withdrawing its membership from the ICC has been challenged before the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.

The United Nations Secretary General was notified of the pullout last March 17. Under the rules, the withdrawal will become effective in a year.

Since it began its examination, Bensouda’s office said it had reviewed information from a “wide range of sources” on crimes allegedly committed in the context of the “war on drugs,” the Duterte administration’s deadly campaign against illegal narcotics.

This information includes public information and those from groups, individuals, and non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations, the report said.

It explained that the analysis involves recording “relevant alleged incidents” and the circumstances under which they occurred, the profiles of alleged victims, the identity of the perpetrators, and the modus operandi used. Stakeholders have also been engaged and consulted, such as in “meetings at the seat of the Court.”

“The Office has further closely followed relevant developments in the Philippines and will continue to do so,” the report stated, adding any future alleged crimes related to the war on drugs “could” also be included in its analysis.

“Accordingly, the Office will also continue to record allegations of crimes committed in the Philippines to the extent that they may fall within the jurisdiction of the Court,” the ICC said.

Duterte faces charges before the ICC for drug war-related crimes allegedly committed since at least July 1, 2016, when he assumed the presidency.

He and his senior officials are accused of promoting and encouraging the killing of alleged drug users and dealers in the conduct of a campaign that has seen thousands of casualties, purportedly at the hands of police forces and vigilante groups.

The President has repeatedly claimed the ICC has no jurisdiction over him.

Topics: International Criminal Court , Rodrigo Duterte , Fatou Bensouda
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