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Int'l court may take over cases of killings, says CHR

Human Rights Commissioner Chito Gascon, right, gets a stare from Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa as he reads his statement at the start of the Philippine Senate probe on extra judicial killings related to President Rodrigo Duterte's "War on Drugs" Monday, Aug. 22, 2016 in Pasay City, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court (ICC) may possibly assume jurisdiction over the extrajudicial and vigilante killings of suspected drug dealers if the Philippine government fails to address the issue, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.

"Failure of the government to address this situation currently prevailing of unexplained extrajudicial killings and providing remedies in terms of prosecution of perpetrators could result in the possibility of the ICC exercising jurisdiction over those matters if you fail to do so," CHR chairperson Chito Gascon told the Senate panel during its inquiry into drug-related killings.

Gascon noted that the Philippines must first satisfy the principle of "complementarity" under the Roman Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

This means that the ICC is a court of "last resort" and may only assume jurisdiction in case a national government fails to address international crimes.

"The ICC may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail to do so, including where they purport to act but in reality are unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out proceedings," the ICC said in its informal expert paper on the principle of complementarity in practice.

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The jurisdiction of the ICC is only limited to four types of cases: war crimes, genocide, aggression and crimes against humanity.

Senators have opened an inquiry into the killings of more than 1,700 suspected drug dealers and users amid a crackdown spearheaded by Duterte, with witnesses accusing some policemen of killing suspects and being involved in the illegal drugs trade.

Gascon said that if the number of extrajudicial killings in the country will continue to increase, it may be considered as a situation of crimes against humanity.

The CHR chief explained that crimes against humanity must have widespread or systematic attacks on the civilian population.

According to Gascon, the ICC has the capacity to have motu propio jurisdiction over the Philippines which means that a complaint is not needed for it to take action over the country.

Like the United Nations, the ICC has mechanisms of monitoring concerning issues around the world, Gascon said.

RELATED: NUJP to Cayetano: Counting drug-related killings part of media’s dutyHuman Rights Watch: Drug killings demand accountability

"If these concerns are not adequately addressed then it is possible that the prosecutor will make a recommendation for assumption of jurisdiction," Gascon said.

Citing former UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings Philip Alston, Gascon clarified that casualties of crime suspects may also be considered as extrajudicial killings.

"Ang sabi po ni Philip Alston sa kanyang report ay ang extrajudicial killing ay any killing by government forces as well the killing by any other groups or individuals which the government failed to investigate, prosecute and punish when it is in a position to do so," the CHR chairperson said. — Video report by Efigenio Toledo IV

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