MANILA (UPDATED) — The International Criminal Court (ICC) will investigate President Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs campaign, the international tribunal announced Wednesday.
In a statement, the ICC said its Pre-Trial Chamber has “granted” the ICC Prosecutor’s request to proceed with its probe of the the drug war in the Philippines from July 2016 when President Duterte took office until March 16, 2019 when the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute which created the ICC took effect.
The probe will also cover killings in Davao from November 1, 2011 to June 30, 2016, when Duterte served both as mayor and vice mayor.
ICC Pre-Trial Chamber noted that specific legal element of crime against humanity of murder under Article 7(1)(a) of the Rome Statute has been met with respect to killings that happened in these two periods.
“The Chamber emphasised that, based on the facts as they emerge at the present stage and subject to proper investigation and further analysis, the so-called 'war on drugs' campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation,” the ICC said.
“Rather, the available material indicates, to the required standard, that a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population took place pursuant to or in furtherance of a State policy, within the meaning of Article 7(1) and (2)(a) of the Statute,” it added.
Article 7 of the Rome Statute refers to crimes against humanity.
Section 1 lists acts considered crimes against humanity like murder, torture, and enforced disappearance that are widespread or systematic attacks against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.
Section 2(a) meanwhile defines an “attack directed against any civilian population" as involving multiple commission of acts enumerated in section 1 against any civilian population, if done pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy.
Former ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, before she stepped down from office in June this year, sought the Pre-Trial Chamber’s permission to proceed with the investigation in the Philippines citing information that state actors, primarily members of the Philippine security forces, killed thousands of suspected drug users and other civilians during official law enforcement operations.
Bensouda also said that so-called vigilante killings were committed by private citizens recruited, coordinated, and paid by police to kill civilians.
In arriving at the conclusion, the ICC said the Pre-Trial Chamber considered the Prosecutor’s request, supporting materials as well as the 204 victims’ representations received by the chamber.
The ICC announced in August that an overwhelming number of victims who approached the international tribunal are in favor of the ICC probe.
Pre-Trial Chamber I, which decided on Bensouda’s request, is composed of Judge Péter Kovács, Presiding Judge, Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou and Judge María del Socorro Flores Liera.
In the statement, the ICC noted that despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the ICC retains jurisdiction over alleged crimes which supposedly took place in the Philippine while it was still a state party from November 1, 2011 until March 16, 2019 when the withdrawal took effect.
The Philippine government had repeatedly maintained that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the President and the war on drugs because the country is no longer part of the ICC.
It insisted, the Philippine government will not cooperate with any probe.