ICC aims to finalize preliminary exam on PH drug war case in 2020: report

Jofelle P. Tesorio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 06 2019 08:45 PM

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) aims to finalize its preliminary examination on issues on the Philippine drug war in 2020.

THE HAGUE- The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is looking at 2020 to finalize its preliminary examination on issues concerning the war on drugs in the Philippines, according to a report released Thursday. 

“During 2020, the Office will aim to finalize the preliminary examination in order to enable the Prosecutor to reach a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the Philippines,” the report read.

According to its annual report, the Prosecutor’s Office “advanced its assessment of whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed under Article 15 (3) of the Statute”. 

Article 15 (3) of the Rome Statute states that “if the Prosecutor concludes there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, he or she shall submit to the Pre-Trial Chamber a request for authorization of an investigation, together with any supporting material collected.”

On Feb. 8, 2018, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the opening of a preliminary examination on the alleged crimes committed in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war. This, after her office reviewed a number of communications and reports documenting alleged crimes including extrajudicial killings.

Prior to this, on Oct. 13, 2016, the prosecutor issued a statement “expressing concern about the reports of alleged extrajudicial killings of purported drug dealers and users in the Philippines.” 

The prosecutor also recalled “that those who incite or engage in crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court are potentially liable to prosecution before the Court.”

Following the announcement of the preliminary examination, the Philippine government deposited on March 17, 2018 a written notification of withdrawal to the UN Secretary-General. The withdrawal took effect a year after, on March 17, 2019.

The report said it still has jurisdiction over the case even when the Philippines has left the tribunal. 

“[T]he Court retains jurisdiction over alleged crimes that have occurred on the territory of the Philippines during the period when it was a State Party to the Statute, namely from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019. Furthermore, the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction (i.e. the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed up to and including 16 March 2019) is not subject to any time limit.”

The Prosecutors’ Office reported that it “gathered, received, and analyzed information from a wide range of sources.” 

It also reviewed hundreds of media and academic articles, reports, databases, legal submissions, primary documents, press releases and public statements by intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and other relevant sources, including communications submitted directly to them. 

The report said that the Prosecutor’s Office “continued to engage and consult with relevant stakeholders in order to address a range of matters relevant to the preliminary examination and to seek further information to inform its assessment of the situation," including meetings with stakeholders, such as various civil society organizations.

It also expressed concern on reports of threats against human rights defenders, including those who have criticized the war on drugs campaign. 

“The Office will continue to closely monitor such reports, as well as other relevant developments in the Philippines,” the report read.

More than 5,000 drug suspects were killed from July 1, 2016, the start of the Duterte administration, until June 30 this year, according to a report the Philippine National Police released in July. 

Government has denied involvement in extrajudicial killings, saying those slain in the drug war had resisted arrest.