Bayan Muna: ICC prosecutor finding basis for crimes vs humanity under Duterte a ‘vindication’
MANILA, Philippines — The findings of the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor that there is a basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte is a vindication for groups seeking accountability, Bayan Muna said.
Both Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares and Rep. Carlos Zarate said on Tuesday that it validates the criticism they have hurled at the administration, especially on the talk of alleged human rights violations in the conduct of the war against illegal drugs.
The findings from ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor is a response to the case filed by drug war critics and the victims’ relatives in August 2018, which said that President Duterte violated Article 7 of the Rome Statute for “widespread and systematic attacks in the form of murder of thousands of civilians”.
Colmenares is one of the lawyers, including those from the National Union of People’s Lawyers, who helped Rise Up for Life and Rights craft the complaint.
“We have been saying this a long time ago, and, as a counsel for RISE UP on their ICC complaint as well being chairman of Bayan Muna, who have always supported families of EJK victims in demanding justice,” Colmenares said in a statement.
“We are glad that the ICC Prosecutor found credence to these complaints and the pieces of evidence that we have presented,” he added. “The Duterte administration may deny to high heavens that they are blatantly violating human rights but the international community is also closely watching and we hope that justice will be served soon.”
Zarate also said that it is a relief that ICC has already respondent, highlight the latest supposed arrests and attacks on human rights defenders and activists
“With the recently intensified red-tagging, arrests and extra-judicial killings of critics of the administration and the political opposition, we are relieved that the ICC has voiced its concern on the issue,” Zarate said.
“To the violators of human rights, you have been forewarned. Nothing is forever; not even impunity,” he added.
The declaration from the ICC drew mixed reactions, with Malacañang saying that it would be a waste of time and money if ICC pursues a probe — because the country had already withdrawn from the Rome Statute, an international agreement that created the ICC in the first place.
“Bahala po sila kung anong gusto nilang gawin, hindi po natin kinikilala ang hurisdiksyon ng ICC. At ang desisyon ng ICC mismo sa kaso ng mga Amerikano doon sa Afghanistan ay nagsabi na kapag walang kooperasyon e bakit kapa magsisimula ng imbestigasyon,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
However, the Office of the Prosecutor has said before that the investigation cannot be stopped as the complaint was filed before Duterte moved for the country’s withdrawal from ICC last March 2019. Neither did the withdrawal of the lawyer who filed the complaint, Jude Sabio, was enough to stop the complaints.
On the side of the opposition which has been critical of the war against illegal drugs, it is a bit troubling that it took some time before ICC found a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has been heavily criticized locally and abroad for allegedly disregarding human rights in the conduct of the drug war, as his statements were blamed for the rise in alleged extrajudicial killings.
As of now, only one case of a summary execution has been decided — the killing of 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos who was accused of involvement in the drug trade even if he was not the original target in the operation. The court found out that Delos Santos was shot point-blank, despite surrendering and pleading with police officers.
Zarate said they hope this development would signal the start of a probe on the state of human rights in the country.
“We hope that the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, will seek authorization to open an investigation in the Philippines in the first half of 2021 or earlier if they can so as to focus the international limelight in the horrid human rights situation in the country and help to put a stop to it,” he noted.
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