Stopping ICC probe jeopardizes drug war victims’ right to justice – counsel
MANILA, Philippines — The appeal by the Philippine government to suspend the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) resumption of its investigation of the Duterte administration’s brutal war against illegal drugs will affect the interests of the victims and their families, according to the court’s Office of Public Counsel for Victims.
In a 28-page observation on behalf of the drug war victims and their families, ICC principal counsel Paolina Massidda said the issues raised by the Philippine government in its appeal “affect the general interests of the victims,” supporting calls to have the appeal dismissed.
Massidda said in her observations that should the ICC prosecutor’s investigation of the drug war be suspended if the appeal is granted, this would therefore “[jeopardize] the victims’ right to truth, justice, and reparations.”
“In fact, depending on their resolution, victims may be denied the opportunity to uncover the truth, present their views and concerns throughout the proceedings, ensure that those responsible are held accountable and ultimately claim reparation,” read the observations signed by Massidda dated April 18.
“A decision regarding the opening of an investigation concerns the first step toward perpetrators’ accountability before the Court in respect of the crimes suffered by the victims,” she added.
“Their personal interest in seeing that the court seized with a situation and that an investigation proceeds, has been regarded as ‘the most essential of all victims’ interests.’”
Massidda also pointed out that the Philippine government had failed to prove that the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber committed an error in its decision authorizing the resumption of the investigation.
She also found as “irrelevant” the argument raised by the Philippine government that the ICC may no longer exercise its jurisdiction over a former state party. The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC, in March 2018 as ordered by then-President Rodrigo Duterte.
Massidda cited a provision of the Vienna Convention, which states that withdrawing from the Rome Statute will not affect the ICC’s jurisdiction over that particular state.