The International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber has allowed victims of the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs to comment on a government bid to stop its investigation into the anti-crime campaign that took thousands of lives.
In an 11-page decision dated March 21, the ICC’s Appeals Chamber ordered the Victims Participation and Reparations Section “to collect and transmit to the Appeals Chamber representations from any interested victims and victim groups and prepare and submit a report thereon by 22 May 2023.”
“The Office of Public Counsel for Victims may submit written observations, not exceeding 40 pages, on the Republic of the Philippines’ appeal brief in relation to the general interest of victims by 18 April 2023,” the decision stated.
The Appeals Chamber said it deems it appropriate to include the victims of the “war on drugs” as it resolves the Philippine government’s appeal.
The Philippine government through the Office of the Solicitor General has asked the ICC’s Appeals Chamber to reverse the authorization granted to its prosecutors to resume their investigation into the “war on drugs” of the Duterte administration.
In its appeal, Manila also sought the suspension of the investigation.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan has already asked the ICC’s Appeals Chamber to reject Manila’s request.
Khan said the Philippine government “has not provided any argument substantiating its request.”
The Appeals Chamber said that 90 victims’ sought to present their views and concerns on the Philippine government’s appeal.
The chamber’s decision stated that “war on drugs” victims indicated that questions of whether investigations will be conducted or deferred “has immediate and direct effect on their personal interest.”
“They have not been able to obtain justice and remedies for the crimes committed against their family members,” it said.
The victims group also told the Appeals Chamber that investigations are the premise of prosecution and potential reparations, which they need to “see justice done and obtain remedies for the harm suffered.”
The Pre-Trial Chamber, in allowing resumption of probe into Philippines, said that domestic proceedings in the Philippines “do not sufficiently mirror the expected scope of the Court’s investigation, since they only address the physical, low-ranking perpetrators and at present do not extend to any high-ranking officials.”
In its response, the Philippine government asserted that it is precluded from “scrutinizing the submissions” of other participants. It added that it had not been notified of any filings concerning victim representation.
However, the Appeals Chamber has said that it is not persuaded “that all filings concerning victims should be notified to the Philippines,” and that “there is a need for the Philippines to ‘scrutinize the submissions of victims.”
Nonetheless, the Chamber directed the Registry to notify Manila of all public and confidential filings in the present proceedings.
Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said the ICC should allow the Philippine government to reply to any pleading that may be filed by victims of the war on drugs.
“For as long as the state will be given a fair opportunity to respond to the victims’ submissions during the appeals stage, the Office of the Solicitor General will not make any further comment on their involvement,” Guevarra said. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“We want to make it of record that at no time during the initial stages of this case was the state (Philippine government) ever confronted with the complaints of the alleged victims, much less given an opportunity to address the same,” Guevarra said.
“We do not know who the 90 anonymous victim applicants are and where they are coming from!” he said.
Bayan Muna chairman and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares welcomed the ICC decision to allow victims and their lawyers to participate in the proceedings.
“Ex-President Duterte and any top PNP official who may be charged in the ICC will have all the right to verify the claims of the victims and even cross-examine the witnesses should there be a trial,” Colmenares said.