MANILA (UPDATED) – The Philippines must provide information to support its request for a deferment of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in the country, Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement released Tuesday (Manila time).
“The Prosecutor will in the coming days request the Philippines to provide substantiating information regarding the investigations and proceedings referenced in its Deferral Request,” the statement noted.
“The Office of the Prosecutor will request that such information be provided promptly, as envisaged by article 18 of the Rome Statute and as necessary to ensure that there is no impunity for Rome Statute crimes,” it added.
The Office of the ICC Prosecutor, over the weekend, suspended its investigation into the alleged "crimes against humanity" committed during the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs.
In his statement, Khan said that information from the Philippines must consist of "tangible evidence, of probative value and sufficient degree of specificity" showing that concrete and progressive investigative steps have been or are currently being undertaken to ascertain responsibility of persons within scope of authorized ICC probe.
Khan also said his office takes the view that a deferral may have a specific or partial effect--rather than a blanket or general effect--on its investigation.
“Additionally, any domestic proceedings must be conducted genuinely as required by the Statute,” he said.
Khan said that while his office's probe is temporarily suspended, it will continue analysis of information it has or may continue to receive.
It will also assess need to seek permission from Pre-Trial Chamber to conduct necessary investigative steps for the preservation of evidence, he said.
“As this process unfolds, the Office will continue to be particularly attentive to the security, safety and wellbeing of victims and witnesses, and the protections and measures foreseen under the Rome Statute in this regard, including potential recourse to article 70 of the Statute where warranted,” he said.
Malacañang has "yet to receive a formal request with regard to this matter," said its acting spokesman, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
He insisted the ICC "has no jurisdiction to probe our campaign against illegal drugs."
"Clearly, the ICC prosecutor’s request for information is an acknowledgment that alleged victims can seek redress in Philippine legal institutions because these are independent, impartial, and competent," Nograles said in a statement.
"Moreover, this validates our earlier position that the ICC is the court of last resort, one that can be utilized when a State Party is unwilling to investigate and prosecute those who violate its laws; this is simply not the case in the Philippines," added the official.
Nograles said the police and National Bureau of Investigation signed "an agreement to conduct cooperative investigations––evidence that a culture of impunity does not exist in our country as local institutions have demonstrated their commitment to accountability."
Various human rights groups have opposed the Philippine government’s push to defer the ICC probe.
The Free Legal Assistance Group has asked the ICC to resume its inquiry on drug war killings in the Philippines.
ICC, International Criminal Court, Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Duterte administration, Duterte war on drugs, Karim Khan, ICC prosecutor, crimes against humanity, Rodrigo Duterte