ICC prosecutor wants to probe Philippines ‘crimes against humanity’

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
ICC prosecutor wants to probe Philippines âcrimes against humanityâ
Photo taken in February 2018 shows PDEA agents and police arresting an alleged drug dealer during a raid in Maharlika Village in Taguig. The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague has sought a full investigation into crimes against humanity during the Philippines’ war on drugs, in one of her last acts before stepping down this week.

MANILA, Philippines — With “sufficient” and “reasonable” basis, outgoing International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has requested authorization to proceed with the investigation of President Duterte for crimes against humanity and killings in the Philippines in connection with his bloody war on drugs.

As Bensouda’s nine-year term as a prosecutor ends this week, the authorized investigation in the Philippines will fall to her successor, British lawyer Karim Khan. The ICC judges have 120 days to decide whether to approve Bensouda’s request.

Bensouda said the preliminary examination into the situation in the Philippines has concluded, prompting her to request judicial authorization to proceed with an investigation.

“I have determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the government of the Philippines ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” Bensouda said.

In her findings, Bensouda said “members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians during that time.”

Bensouda also reviewed allegations of torture and other inhumane acts, and related events as early as Nov. 1, 2011, the beginning of the Court’s jurisdiction in the Philippines.

Because of the ICC’s initial probe, the Philippines withdrew from the body on March 17, 2019. Yet Bensouda maintained that the Court retains jurisdiction over crimes, as the allegations took place while the Philippines was still a member.


The Philippines called Bensouda’s request to probe the situation in the Philippines “regrettable,” saying the outgoing prosecutor’s move is a blatant violation of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC.

“The Philippine government finds deeply regrettable the announcement of the outgoing Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to seek judicial authorization to proceed with an investigation of the situation in the Philippines,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

“The precipitate move of the Prosecutor is a blatant violation of the principle of complementarity, which is a bedrock principle of the Rome Statute,” the DFA added.

The DFA said Bensouda’s midnight announcement on the eve of her end of term “also preempts the prerogative of her successor to make a full evaluation of the cases that he will prosecute.”

In response, the Philippine government reported that concrete and progressive steps have been taken to address concerns in the conduct of the anti-illegal drugs campaign. It also recently finalized a Joint Program on Human Rights with the United Nations.

“All these affirm the Philippines’ adherence to human rights norms and its long track record of constructive engagement with international and regional partners in human rights promotion and protection,” the DFA said.



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