MANILA (UPDATED) - The complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte in the International Criminal Court (ICC) is "strong" enough to convict him for human rights violations over his drug war, rights lawyer Neri Colmenares said Tuesday.
In an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Colmenares explained that the complaint filed by 7 families from rights group Rise Up for Life and for Rights have witnesses as well as the identities of the police officers involved in the anti-drugs operations.
The complaint was filed by the group in 2018.
While there were some individuals who earlier backed out of the complaint, those who proceeded with it are "ready."
"Alam mo na (kung) President Duterte ang kalaban mo... dapat malakas na mga kaso kung saan may mga witnesses, nakita talaga ang pagpatay at identified talaga ang mga pumatay na mga kapulisan," Colmenares said.
(If President Duterte is your enemy, you should have a strong case against him where there are witnesses, and the police officers who killed them are identified.)
"Tumingin kami ng maraming factors para piliin ang mga kaso, at medyo malakas ang mga kaso na ito," the lawyer added.
(We looked at many factors to screen the cases and these are somehow strong.)
Colmenares made the statement after outgoing ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested for judicial authorization to proceed with investigation regarding the country's "situation" in relation to Duterte's drug war.
The request for judicial authorization made public on Monday contained strongly-worded findings.
“Information obtained by the Prosecution suggests that state actors, primarily members of the Philippine security forces, killed thousands of suspected drug users and other civilians during official law enforcement operations," it read.
"Markedly similar crimes were committed outside official police operations, reportedly by so-called 'vigilantes', although information suggests that some vigilantes were in fact police officers, while others were private citizens recruited, coordinated, and paid by police to kill civilians,” it added.
CASE NOW UNDER NEW ICC PROSECUTOR
Colmenares believes it will not be a challenge that the complaint will be turned over to Bensouda’s successor, Karim Khan, as he is also a human rights advocate.
Karim is best known for heading the United Nations' special investigative team looking into Islamic State crimes in Iraq.
"May karanasan ito (he is experienced) and we believe na he is very good in terms of human rights, ensuring that human rights is protected in the merits siyempre," he said.
The rights lawyer is also confident that Khan will not just drop the Office of the Prosecutor's filing to the Pre-Trial Chambers, and that he will have the same level of commitment to the case.
"Yes, we believe that. Ang susuportahan ni Khan dito ay yung merits ng kaso. Bago nagdesisyon si Bensouda, nag-consult naman yan sa incoming prosecutor."
(Khan will support the case based on its merits. Before Bensouda decided on the case, she consulted with the incoming prosecutor.)
Rights groups who have lobbied for ICC to investigate the killings in the Philippines have argued that the thousands killed during the war on drugs in the country are more than enough to warrant an international probe — more than 6,000 based on official figures, but more than 30,000 according to estimates of rights groups.
Rights groups said authorities have summarily executed drug suspects, but police said drug dealers fought back violently.
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) said the development is "another step closer to exacting accountability"
from the Duterte administration.
"Duterte's brutal war on drugs normalized violence in our society and terrorized the population into silence. He must be held liable along with the police and military leadership that implemented the bloody campaign," Judy Pasimio, spokesperson of iDEFEND, said in a statement.
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