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ICC prosecutor asks for judicial authority to probe case filed vs Duterte

/ 11:51 PM June 14, 2021
Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda attends the trial for Malian Islamist militant Al-Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud at the ICC (International Criminal Court) in The Hague, the Netherlands July 8, 2019. (File photo from REUTERS)

MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court (ICC) has formally requested judicial authorization to investigate the crimes against humanity case filed against President Rodrigo Duterte, having finished the preliminary investigation of the complaints filed by local groups.

In the 57-page request made by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Monday, she maintained that based on information gathered by her office, there is reason to believe that state actors have killed thousands of civilians under the war against illegal drugs

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She also noted that the information suggests that vigilante-style killings were perpetrated by police officers themselves or other private individuals hired by authorities — leading to a death toll of between 12,000 to 30,000 civilians.

“These extrajudicial killings, perpetrated across the Philippines, appear to have been committed pursuant to an official State policy of the Philippine government. Police and other government officials planned, ordered, and sometimes directly perpetrated extrajudicial killings,” Bensouda said in the formal request.

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“They paid police officers and vigilantes bounties for extrajudicial killings. State officials at the highest levels of government also spoke publicly and repeatedly in support of extrajudicial killings and created a culture of impunity for those who committed them,” she added.

Bensouda said that the formal request came as she intended to resolve all cases placed under preliminary investigation under her term. Also, she said that investigations about the Philippines – if permitted – will be done by her successor, Karim Khan.

“As I stated in December 2019, at the annual session of the Assembly of States Parties, before I end my term as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”), I intend to reach determinations on all situations that have been under preliminary examination during my tenure, as far as I am able to do so in accordance with my obligations under the Rome Statute,” she said in a separate statement posted on the ICC website.

“On the basis of that work, I have determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the Government of Philippines ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” she added.

Bensouda also clarified in her statement that her office does not take a position on the administration’s policies regarding its anti-drug program, stressing that she was only acting based on her mandate under the Rome Statute.

However, she also emphasized that available information indicated that the Philippine National Police — one of the law enforcement agencies implementing Duterte’s war against illegal drugs — has “unlawfully killed” thousands of civilians.

“Following a thorough preliminary examination process, the available information indicates that members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians during that time,” Bensouda said.

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“My Office has also reviewed information related to allegations of torture and other inhumane acts, and related events as early as 1 November 2011, the beginning of the Court’s jurisdiction in the Philippines, all of which we believe require investigation,” she added.

Last December 2019, the ICC vowed to continue assessing the complaints against Duterte even though the Philippines had withdrawn from the Rome Statute, which instituted the ICC. The ICC said that it still had jurisdiction over the case as it had been filed before the withdrawal — the communications was filed in August 2018 while the country withdrew in March 2019.

In the recent statement, Bensouda repeated that the ICC still has jurisdiction over the country as the alleged crime occurred within the period that it was a state party to the Rome Statute — like in a similar case involving the Republic of Burundi.

Complaints against Duterte were filed by several rights groups and sectors critical of his anti-illegal drugs campaign like the Rise Up for Life and Rights, which is composed of drug war victims’ relatives and other rights advocates. According to the group, Duterte has violated Article 7 of the Rome Statute for “widespread and systematic attacks in the form of murder of thousands of civilians.”

Late lawyer Jude Sabio also filed a separate complaint, which he later on retracted as it was supposedly being used for the political propaganda of the opposition.

READ: Lawyer withdraws ICC complaint vs Duterte, saying it’s just ‘propaganda’

Then in December 2020, ICC said that it had a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in the drug war.

READ: ICC to continue assessing complaint vs Duterte; findings out in 2020

READ: ICC finds ‘reasonable basis’ to believe crimes against humanity committed in Duterte’s drug war

READ: Drug war critics file complaint vs Duterte for ‘crimes against humanity’

Duterte has constantly condemned international rights advocates and even the ICC itself for allegedly interfering in local affairs, claiming that they have no supervision over the country. During his latest briefing on Monday, the President stressed that drug war deaths really occur as suspects try to fight it against authorities.

Last December, Duterte said that ICC prosecutors are “fools,” as they did not prepare before claiming sufficient evidence that crimes against humanity were committed under his term.

READ: ICC prosecutors are fools, they don’t read — Duterte

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TAGS: crimes against humanity, Drug war, Fatou Bensouda, ICC, International Criminal Court, Rodrigo Duterte
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