Kin of EJK victims file ICC complaint vs Duterte for crimes against humanity
In this December 8, 2016 photo, An empty shell of a pistol lies near the body of a woman, later identified by her husband as that of Nora Acielo, after she was shot by still unidentified men while about to bring her two children to school at a poor neighborhood in Manila.
AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

Kin of EJK victims file ICC complaint vs Duterte for crimes against humanity

(Philstar.com) - August 28, 2018 - 11:24am

MANILA, Philippines — The families of alleged victims of extrajudicial killings on Tuesday filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court, accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of committing crimes against humanity in the course of the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs and campaign against criminality.

The complainants, who include the kin of alleged EJK victims and church-based and sectoral group Rise Up, asserted that Duterte is guilty of crimes against humanity, specifically murder and other inhumane acts. 

The National Union of People’s Lawyer assisted in the filing of the complaint.

They called on the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to indict Duterte for crimes against humanity and award reparation for the victims and complainants. 

In the 50-page complaint, the families claimed that the chief executive has ordered and incited the killings through his statements and official memoranda.

The complaint said the police use of the term “neutralize” translates to “kill,” which the complainants believe is an indication that Duterte directly ordered state agents to kill suspected drug personalities.

“By his words and actions, President Duterte is the perpetrator and most responsible for the killings and other horrific acts. He has consistently stated that he is responsible for the 'war on drugs',” the complaint read.

Human rights advocates claim there have been more than 12,000 individuals killed since Duterte launched the brutal war on drugs.

But the government has downplayed the numbers, claiming a little over 4,000 deaths in recognized law enforcement operations.

NUPL chair Neri Colmenares said the number of alleged drug suspects killed in so-called police operations is large enough to constitute crimes against humanity. 

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s tens of thousands or 4,410, there are several dead already. This is up to the standard of crimes against humanity,” Colmenares said. 

NUPL said it was the first ICC complaint filed directly by families affected by drug killings. 

In April 2017, lawyer Jude Sabio filed the first communication against Duterte for crimes against humanity before the ICC. Opposition lawmakers Sen. Antonio Trillanes and Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) filed a supplemental one in June 2017. 

Last February, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor announced it would conduct a preliminary examination, not an investigation, into Duterte’s war on drugs.

Palace unfazed 

Malacañang is confident that the complaint of the families of EJK victims and group Rise Up will not fly. 

“My fearless prediction is that it will not prosper dahil sa concept ng complementarity. Hindi po dapat gumalaw ang ICC unless local courts are proven to be unable and unwilling to exercise jurisdiction on these cases,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, a former human rights lawyer, said in a press briefing Tuesday. 

Under the principle of complementarity, the ICC can exercise jurisdictions if states are unable or unwilling to investigate crimes.

Roque had repeatedly said the Philippine courts are functioning well.

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Last March, the Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin Jr. submitted the Philippines’ letter of withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the ICC. 

In its letter, the Philippines said that its decision to withdraw from the treaty that established ICC was a “principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights.” 

Despite this the Philippines remains a party to the Rome Statute as the withdrawal will only take effect a year after the date of receipt of the notification.

The Supreme Court is set to hear the oral arguments on the country’s withdrawal from ICC Tuesday afternoon. —  Gaea Katreena Cabico with reports from Mark Jayson Cayabyab

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