Families of people killed in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs have asked the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor to resume its investigation in a supplemental communication filed on Tuesday.
They argued there is no genuine domestic investigation, much less prosecution, being conducted into crimes against humanity in the context of the war on drugs, contrary to the claim of the government.
Rise Up for Life and for Rights’ Irma Locasia, Dennise David, Maria Lozano, Mariel Sabangan, Normita Lopez, Purisima Dacumos and Christine Pascual filed the communication.
The ICC had granted the government’s request to suspend the probe.
The Duterte administration said that it had been looking into the deaths, referring to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) referral to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of 52 cases where the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service found administrative liability on the part of police officers.
“The Deferral Request failed to inform the OTP that there is no domestic investigation at all of President Rodrigo Duterte, who was charged by herein Complainants in their Communication of August 2018 as the respondent who is the most responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.”
“Moreover, there are also no domestic investigations on other persons most responsible for crimes committed in the context of the war on drugs campaign,” the new communication to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said.
“There has been an unjustified delay and even aversion, on the part of the Philippine government, in investigating and prosecuting crimes connected with the war on drugs campaign that is wholly inconsistent with an intent to bring persons responsible to justice,” they added.
The group said domestic mechanisms have proven to be ineffective remedies to victims of the extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detentions, abuses, and rights violations amid the unrelenting drug war.
“The overwhelming support of victims for an investigation shows that it is in the ‘interest of justice’ to continue with the ICC investigation. A domestic proceeding carried out by officials and agencies under the complete control of President Duterte will not be impartial, independent, or credible. It will serve to protect the President and other officials most responsible for the crimes in question,” they said.
“It is patent that the request for deferral is, stripped of its mirage and rhetoric, merely a premeditated turnaround not made bona fide. It is intended to delay, frustrate, and abort the ICC proceedings in order to shield the most responsible perpetrators from any responsibility, accountability, and liability.”
“Complainants, therefore, respectfully pray that the Honorable Prosecutor admit the information submitted through this Supplemental Communication and consider the same in the assessment of the Philippine government’s Deferral Request,” they added.
Prior to the Rise Up group, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), which provides legal counsel to the victims of those killed in the Duterte administration’s drug war, also opposed the ICC’s deferral of drug war probe, saying that the Justice department’s investigation is fake since it has not led to any prosecution.
By the government’s count, at least 7,000 suspects have been killed during the police’s drug war operations.
But human rights organizations and the families of the victims who filed a complaint before the ICC argue that this number could be as high as 30,000 if drug war-related deaths supposedly done by “vigilante squads” are included.
The Department of Justice has only reviewed 352 cases of drug war deaths in police operations and has only released findings on 52 of them.