ICC to continue assessing complaint vs Duterte; findings out in 2020
MANILA, Philippines – The preliminary examination of the crimes against humanity complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte may be finished in 2020 as the International Criminal Court (ICC) continues to assess the communication from drug war victims.
According to ICC’s report on Thursday, they have found sufficient basis to proceed, as only a few number of investigations have been conducted on the human rights issues and alleged extra-judicial killings that have hounded the Duterte administration.
“Open source information indicates that a limited number of investigations and prosecutions have been initiated (and, in some cases, completed) at the national level in respect of direct perpetrators of certain criminal conduct that allegedly took place in the context of, or connection to, the WoD campaign,” ICC noted.
“For example, Philippine government officials and bodies have provided sporadic public updates on the number of investigations conducted by various authorities into killings that occurred during law enforcement operations,” they added.
They also cited that only one case has been ruled in the country — that of slain 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos, where the three arresting officers who killed the teenager point-blank were convicted of murder.
ICC also insisted that they still have jurisdiction over the supposed crimes as the complaints were filed before the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC. The communications prepared by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) were filed last August 2018, while the withdrawal was made in March 2019.
They also noted that any possible investigation has no time limit, even if the country is no longer a state party to the ICC.
“In accordance with article 127, the withdrawal took effect on 17 March 2019. The Court retains jurisdiction over alleged crimes that have occurred on the territory of the Philippines during the period when it was a State Party to the Statute, namely from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019,” the international body explained.
“Furthermore, the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction (i.e. the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed up to and including 16 March 2019) is not subject to any time limit,” they added.
Once the preliminary examination is finished, the Prosecutor can decide whether there is a need to open an investigation on Duterte and the anti-drug campaign.
“During the reporting period, the Office significantly advanced its assessment of whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed under article 15(3) of the Statute. During 2020, the Office will aim to finalize the preliminary examination in order to enable the Prosecutor to reach a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the Philippines,” ICC said.
The war on drugs has been a central theme of Duterte’s campaign to the presidency and his eventual government, promising to rid the streets of illegal drugs and drug lords.
However, critics have slammed the campaign being bloody, as more than 5,500 drug suspects have already died in legitimate police operations, since Duterte took office in June 2016. Opposition groups say the true death toll maybe around 11,000 to 30,000.
Recently, the drug war appeared to be taking on a different turn with the appointment of Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), as she pushed for the scrapping of Oplan Tokhang and the integration of community-based rehabilitation centers.
Robredo, an opposition stalwart, was eventually fired by Duterte after just 19 days on the job.
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