Don’t rejoice yet, rights lawyers appeal suspension of ICC probe of war on drugs

Nov. 22, 2021

Don’t rejoice yet.

Says human rights lawyers as the government announced that the International Criminal Court (ICC) temporarily suspended its probe on the extrajudicial killings committed in the government’s war on drugs.

On November 18, the ICC deferred its investigation after the Philippine government made such request.

Philippine ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya forwarded the request to the ICC, saying the Department of Justice has conducted its investigation on 52 cases of police drug raids that resulted in deaths.

Malaya invoked Article 17 of the Rome Statute that states the ICC can only exercise jurisdiction if the national government failed to prosecute crimes under international law.

The lawyers groups National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which represent some of the victims, appealed to the ICC to continue its investigation and not be swayed by the government’s claims.

“We ask the ICC not to allow itself to be swayed by the claims now being made by the Duterte administration,” the NUPL said in a statement.

The government reported 6,000 people killed in its anti-drugs campaign since Duterte’s term in 2016. But human rights groups said the figures could reach up to 30,000.

NUPL said the domestic “‘remedies'” have been “utterly ineffective in stopping wave after wave of drug-related killings, the imprisonment of thousands of poor Filipinos on questionable charges, and the commission of countless human rights violations during the anti-drug campaign.”

House deputy minority leader and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said the temporary suspension of the probe does not mean the government should feel relieved.

“Those responsible for this bloody crime against humanity should not rejoice yet” as the suspension is part of the formality.

Zarate describes the DOJ probe as “a big farce”.

“For instance, of more than 6,000 officially acknowledged killings during anti-drug operations since July 1, 2016, how come only 52 are being investigated?,” he asked.

“These are just some of the points that the ICC Prosecutor, we trust, will see as he continue to evaluate the merit of the case,” Zarate said.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said in news reports that while they are “assessing the scope and effect” of the deferral, they will continue to look into this case.

“The Prosecution will, however, continue its analysis of information already in its possession, as well as of any new information it may receive from third parties, and actively assess the need for application to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authority to conduct necessary investigative steps for the preservation of evidence,” Khan said.

The ICC probe also includes the extrajudicial killings in Davao City in 2011 to 2016 when Duterte was still a local official in the city, as they see a similar pattern of the Davao Death Squad to the war on drugs.

Retired Davao City police officer Arturo Lascañas has submitted an affidavit to the ICC implicating Duterte was the mastermind of the death squad.


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