President Rodrigo Duterte sings a song after leading the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony of the Office of the President at the Kalayaan Grounds in Malacañang on Dec. 3, 2018.
Presidential Photo/Toto Lozano
ICC prosecutor's preliminary examination into 'drug war' seen done in 2020
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - December 5, 2019 - 8:42pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 9:45 p.m.) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court seeks to finalize the preliminary examination into President Rodrigo Duterte alleged crimes against humanity in 2020.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said this is an annual report on the Hague-based tribunal’s preliminary examination activities.

"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," Bensouda said in the report.

A preliminary examination is not the same as a preliminary investigation in criminal proceedings.

If Bensouda concludes that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, she will submit to the Pre-Trial Chamber a request for authorization of an investigation, together with any supporting material collected.

In February 2018, Bensouda’s office announced it would open preliminary examination into the alleged extrajudicial killings linked with the government’s anti-drug crackdown.

This prompted the Philippine government to withdraw it ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty that established ICC.

The country’s withdrawal formally took effect in March 2019. Despite the withdrawal, the initial review continues.

Prosecutor’s assessment 

The Office of the Prosecutor said it “significantly advanced” its assessment of whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into crimes allegedly committed in the context of the war on drugs during the reporting period. 

It 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. 

“Consistent with standard practice, the Office has subjected such information to rigorous source evaluation, including an independent and thorough assessment of the reliability of sources and credibility of information received,” Bensouda’s office said.

It also held meetings and was in contact with stakeholders, including civil society organizations, to address matters relevant to the preliminary examination and seek further information. 

The Office of the Prosecutor added it collected and assessed open source information on any relevant national proceedings conducted by Philippine authorities as well as monitored proceedings that appear to remain ongoing. 

“Open source information indicates that a limited number of investigations and prosecutions have been initiated (and, in some cases, completed) at the national level in respect of direct perpetrators of certain criminal conduct that allegedly took place in the context of, or connection to, the war on drug campaign,” it said.

Under the principle of complementarity in the Rome Statute, the ICC only acts when national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocities at home.

The government said just over 5,500 alleged dealers and users who fought back during arrest have been killed but watchdogs say the true toll can be as high as 27,000.

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