ICC begins examination of NUPL case vs Duterte

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
ICC begins examination of NUPL case vs Duterte
“It appears that your communication relates to a situation already under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor,” the ICC said in a letter to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) dated April 4, 2019.
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MANILA, Philippines — The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has started its preliminary examination on alleged crimes against humanity filed against President Duterte in connection with his war on drugs.

“It appears that your communication relates to a situation already under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor,” the ICC said in a letter to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) dated April 4, 2019.

The letter was signed by Mark Dillon, head of Information and Evidence Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor.

“Accordingly, your communication will be analyzed in this context, with the assistance of other related communications and other available information,” the ICC added.

“Analysis will be carried out as expeditiously as possible; but the meaningful analysis of these factors can take some time,” it said.

The NUPL, which represented activists and families of eight victims of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, filed a complaint before the ICC on Aug. 28 last year, calling for Duterte’s indictment for thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings.

In February last year, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that her office will conduct a preliminary examination into allegations surrounding the Philippines’ war on drugs.

Lawyer Jude Sabio filed the first complaint against Duterte in April 2017.

A month later, the President withdrew the Philippines from the Rome Statute, which created the ICC. 

The country’s withdrawal became effective last month, but the international court said its preliminary examination into the killings in Duterte’s war on drugs would continue even if the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC took effect last March 17.

More complaints

A group of rights defenders, meanwhile, filed letters of allegation yesterday before the United Nations’ special rapporteurs over cases of threat, harassment and intimidation, particularly the red-tagging and terrorist-labeling of organizations, in line with the Duterte government’s counterinsurgency program.

Karapatan sent the complaints to the offices of UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule and UN Assistant Secretary General for human rights Andrew Gilmour. 

In the complaints filed, Karapatan said that under the Duterte administration, there is a surge in the violations on the right to freedom of association and of human rights defenders, including reprisals on those who engage with UN human rights mechanisms.

Karapatan cited defamatory propaganda materials circulated in public places and even online, most recently in December 2018 and February this year as well as the systematic red-tagging by the Duterte government through the issuance of Executive Order No. 70 last Dec. 4 which created a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF).

A similar complaint has also been filed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and at the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.           

“The recent circus tour of the NTF in diplomatic missions in Europe is a mere frantic attempt by the Duterte government to discredit organizations such as Karapatan, Ibon and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines which are exposing the issues and crimes that this regime wants buried,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay said the government’s moves have serious implications and “the risks faced by human rights defenders in the country have exponentially worsened.”

“Activists are being killed. Hundreds have already been imprisoned due to trumped-up charges while thousands more were subjected to various forms of threats,” Palabay stressed.

“These desperate and dangerous ploys (are) directly inimical to the exercise of our civil and political rights and to our fundamental rights and freedoms. We challenge the Duterte government to respond to the requests of said UNSRs for an official country visit for independent investigations on human rights violations,” Palabay said.

“We can no longer expect due process to be accorded to us by the Duterte government, given the staggering thousands stripped of their right to due process and mercilessly killed, but we express our hope that UN member-states and independent mandate holders can stand alongside organizations and advocates who have, time and again, worked ceaselessly for the advancement and protection of human rights,” Palabay added.

Investigation in order

Also yesterday, describing “nanlaban” as an overused narrative, the CHR reiterated its call for the government to fully investigate cases of suspects killed for allegedly fighting back during operations. 

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia welcomed the decision of Ombudsman Samuel Martires to file charges against Staff Sgt. Gerry Geñalope for killing an epileptic man during a drug operation in Tondo, Manila in 2017. ?“(The victim Djastin) Lopez was a 23-year-old epileptic who sustained fatal gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen despite being in a position to not defend himself – shutting down claims that he fought back or nanlaban,” De Guia said. ?“There are also questions on the legitimacy of the operation because of conflicting police reports,” she added. ?The CHR official said the case of Lopez is only one of thousands of cases where police claimed that the suspect was killed for fighting back during an operation. ?“An overused narrative claimed by state agents in the middle of the campaign against illegal drugs… we urge the government to investigate and shed light on thousands of other unlawful aggression (nanlaban) cases and allow the rule of law to prevail,” De Guia said. – With Rhodina Villanueva, Janvic Mateo



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