ICC finds ‘reasonable basis’ to believe crimes against humanity committed in Duterte’s drug war
MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor said there is a “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
“The Office is satisfied that information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder (Article 7(1)(a)), torture (article 7(1)(f)) and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane Acts (article 7(1)(k)) were committed on the territory of the Philippines between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, in connection to the WoD campaign launched throughout the country,” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in her report dated Monday.
Bensouda noted that in addition to drug-related killings, some individuals were allegedly subjected to serious ill-treatment and abuses prior to being killed by state actors and unidentified assailants, after being arrested or abducted, and while being held in custody before their deaths.
She also noted reports that in at least a few incidents, members of law enforcement raped women who were apparently targeted because of their personal relationships to individuals allegedly involved in the drug trade.
“Overall, most of the victims of the alleged crimes in question were persons reportedly suspected by authorities to be involved in drug activities, that is, individuals allegedly involved in the production, use, or sale (either directly or in support of such activities) of illegal drugs, or in some cases, individuals otherwise considered to be associated with such persons,” the ICC prosecutor said.
Citing available information, Bensouda likewise pointed out that many of the persons targeted in such crimes had been included on drug watch lists compiled by national or local authorities, and some of those targeted had previously surrendered to the police under “Oplan Tokhang.”
“In a number of cases, notably, the alleged acts were committed against children or otherwise affected them,” she further said.
For instance, Bensouda noted that a “significant number” of minors, ranging from a few months old to 17 years old, reportedly turned victims of apparent drug-related killings as direct targets, or as a result of mistaken identity or collateral victims.
The situation in the country since at least July 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office has been under preliminary examination of the Office of the Prosecutor since February 2018.
In June, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced the creation of an inter-agency panel that will reinvestigate the deaths in anti-drug operations.
Bensouda said her office will continue to monitor developments regarding the panel.
She added that her office has also been “following with concern” the reports on threats, killings, and other measures apparently taken against human rights defenders, journalists and others, including critics of the war on drugs.
According to Bensouda, the COVID-19 pandemic and “capacity constraints” have delayed her office’s goal to conclude the preliminary examination on the situation in the Philippines.
She said her office anticipates to decide on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the country in the first half of 2021.
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