ICC Prosecutor suspends probe into PH drug war killings

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2021 12:16 AM

The façade of the ICC building in The Hague. Jofelle P. Tesorio, ABS-CBN News Europe Bureau
The façade of the ICC building in The Hague. Jofelle P. Tesorio, ABS-CBN News Europe Bureau

MANILA — The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has suspended its investigation into the alleged "crimes against humanity" committed during the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs. 

According to an ICC document dated Nov. 18, "the prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the deferral request" of the Philippine government.

Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands J. Eduardo Malaya earlier wrote to Britain's Karim Khan, prosecutor of the ICC, asking the international tribunal to defer to the government's investigation of the drug war, noting the mechanisms in place that would assure them of the government's "[commitment] to the rule of law with the highest regard to due process." 

Malaya cited the Department of Justice's (DOJ) findings on 52 cases involving deaths during the police's anti-narcotics operations in the country. However, the agency has yet to release similar information on the over 300 cases it scrutinized under the first drug war review.

Khan said his office will still continue reviewing and analyzing data it has gathered on the Duterte administration's alleged human rights violations "as well as of any new information it may receive from third parties." 

He added his office will continue to assess "the need for applications to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authority to conduct necessary investigative steps for the preservation of evidence under Article 18(6) of the Statute."

According to Article 18(6) of the Roman Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, "pending a ruling by the Pre-Trial Chamber, or at any time when the Prosecutor has deferred an investigation under this article, the Prosecutor may, on an exceptional basis, seek authority from the Pre-Trial Chamber to pursue necessary investigative steps for the purpose of preserving evidence where there is a unique opportunity to obtain important evidence or there is a significant risk that such evidence may not be subsequently available."

Centerlaw Philippines opposed the Philippine government's call for a deferral, and described government arguments in the letter as false. 

"The Philippine government claims that 'it is investigating or has investigated' the Crimes Against Humanity in Duterte’s drug war. This could not be further from the truth," it said, calling on the ICC to continue its probe on drug war killings.

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber in August gave its green light for the ICC Prosecutor to conduct a formal probe on the drug war killings in the Philippines.

The investigation covers 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 earlier said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month owned up to the responsibility for the deaths of thousands of alleged drug traffickers and several mayors, amid the looming ICC probe. 

But Malacañang has insisted it will not cooperate with any investigation.


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