MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - An International Criminal Court prosecutor on Thursday reiterated the intergovernmental organization has authority over alleged crimes against humanity that took place in the Philippines despite the country's withdrawal from the treaty that created the ICC.
The statement came nearly a month after the ICC said its Pre-Trial Chamber has granted the ICC Prosecutor’s request to proceed with its probe of the violent war of drugs and killings in the Philippines, including Davao City.
Britain's Karim Khan, prosecutor of the ICC, said in a statement that judges of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed that his office "retains jurisdiction" on its probe of the drug war in the Philippines from July 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte took office, until March 16, 2019, when the country’s departure from the Rome Statute took effect.
The probe will also cover killings in the country from November 1, 2011 to June 30, 2016, when Duterte served both as Davao mayor and vice mayor since the Philippines was an ICC "State Party, from November 1, 2011 up to and including March 16, 2019", Khan said.
"In their ruling, the Judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I accepted that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder appears to have been committed," he said.
"The Judges also noted, as my Office did in its Request, reports of torture and inhumane acts, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearance, and sexual violence. The Judges authorized my Office to investigate such other crimes, as long as they remain within the parameters of the authorized investigation.
"My investigation will seek to uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability. We will focus our efforts on ensuring a successful, independent and impartial investigation," Khan said.
"In doing so, we aim to bring justice to the victims and affected communities, and count on the support and cooperation of States Parties, civil society and other partners."
Khan said he is willing to cooperate with Philippine authorities "with the principle of complementarity and our obligations under the Statute."
The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber earlier said 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 the period covered by the Prosecutor's probe.
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.
Days after the ICC announced the authorization of the investigation, Duterte told the United Nations that a review of the conduct of the government's violent campaign against illegal drugs was underway.
Malacañang has repeatedly argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Duterte and the conduct of war on drugs because the country is no longer part of the ICC.
It insisted that the Philippine government will not cooperate with any investigation.