ICC: Victims 'overwhelmingly support' investigation into Philippine 'drug war'

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
ICC: Victims 'overwhelmingly support' investigation into Philippine 'drug war'
This file photo taken on July 8, 2016 shows police officers investigating the dead body of an alleged drug dealer, his face covered with packing tape and a placard reading "I'm a pusher", on a street in Manila.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — An “overwhelming” number of victims back the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor’s request for a full investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte and his men’s “war on drugs,” an initial report by the ICC Registry said.

The ICC Registry’s Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS), in its public redacted report dated August 27, said it found that “victims overwhelmingly support an investigation by the ICC prosecutor into all crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the context of the so called [‘war on drugs’] in the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 17 March 2019.”

The ICC Registry a “neutral organ of the Court” that provides services to other organs of the ICC. Its services include support for victims to participate in proceedings and apply for reparations.

The VPRS said it received a total of 212 representations, but following legal assessment, it transmitted 204 victim representations to the Pre-Trial Chamber, which is deciding whether it would grant the request of the OTP to launch a full investigation into the Philippines.

The 204 victim representations were on behalf of 1,503 individual victims and 1,050 families. Of these, four were assessed as individuals and 200 as collective.

“They also bring forward the victims’ views and concerns on the OTP request and on other related matters, including justice, the ICC, the potential scope of an investigation and the impact of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has on victims’ lives and their society,” the ICC said.

94% want full investigation

The 30-page public redacted report showed that 94% of victims want an investigation by the ICC Prosecutor, while three percent were unclear, three said no.


Of the submissions, 192 forms indicated that the victims want the Prosecutor to investigate the crimes committed in the “drug war.”

It listed the main motivating factors for the request for investigation as:

  • genuine investigation by an impartial international court
  • identifying and bringing the perpetrators to justice
  • ending impunity
  • preventing future crimes
  • knowing the truth about what happened to victims and clearing their names of false accusations; and
  • allowing the victims’ voices to be heard

Among the quotes the ICC shared, the victims said they are seeking the international tribunal to finally achieve justice. One family said they do not know what had happened to their grandson or whether he was alive or dead, while one said their son was not given a chance to live.

The VPRS also noted that five representations stated that the victims represented did not want an investigation. It said that the reasons “were not always clear,” but “fear of reprisals and re-traumatization motivated these refusals.”

“In seven representations, the relevant questions were either not answered or from the information provided it is unclear whether the victims want or do not want an investigation to be authorized,” it added.

Crimes against humanity committed

The VPRS said most of the representations indicated that investigation into the Philippines should cover crimes they report, while others said that all crimes of humanity committed in the context of “war on drugs” must also be looked into.

The following potential crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Philippines in the context of “drug war” are murder, attempted murder, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, rape and other forms of sexual violence, enforced disappearance of persons, torture and other inhumane acts.

These crimes were said to be “committed by police, [redacted], unidentified men wearing civilian clothes, bonnets and masks who, in a number of cases, rode in tandem when committing the alleged crimes,” the report said.

Victim representations also reported suffering harm that include physical (203), psychological (204), material (116), social harm (204), as well as substantial impairment of fundamental rights (79).

The VPRS said representations “systematically inferred” to social harm on account of the stigma linked to the “drug war” for the suspected drug users and their families.

There were three representations that reported rape and other sexual violence, but the VPRS noted that this type of crime is “severely underreported” due to fear and stigma.

‘No justice here’

The report also said victims had raised distrust in domestic justice systems, with one saying that prosecutors believe there is a threat to their lives if word gets out that they dropped a drug complaint.

One quote from a victim read: “The justice is elusive here because it doesn’t work for the victims of the war on drugs, and the state condones these killings and torture, state authorities who perpetrated the human rights violations are not investigated.”

Victims are also asking for expeditious proceedings and reparations. Some have also raised trauma and stigma related to the “drug war,” and that they continue to live in fear.

The VPRS however noted that in its meetings, victim representations are not considered evidence. If the ICC Judges authorize the OTP to conduct an investigations, all victims will have the right to apply for participation.

It added that victim representations were told that “[t]he ICC process can take a long time and may not always result in suspects being identified, tried or found guilty.”

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 30, 2021 - 8:51am

The office of Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the Hague-based International Criminal Court, is holding a preliminary examination, different from a preliminary investigation in the Philippine justice system, into alleged extrajudicial killings and other abuses related to the government's "War on Drugs".

In an update in December 2020, she says the examination may be finished by the first half of 2021.

August 30, 2021 - 8:51am

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says drug war victims overwhelmingly support an investigation into all crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the context of the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines.

In its latest report, the ICC says 204 victims representations were submitted on behalf of 1,530 individual victims and 1,050 families.

About 94% of the victims want an investigation by the ICC prosecutor, according to the report.

December 15, 2020 - 8:04am

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says it is "satsified that information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder...torture...and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm..." were committed in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 amd March 16, 2019.

The office says in a report on the Philippines that it believes these acts were "in connection with the ['War on Drugs'] campaign launched throughout the country."

The ICC prosecutor is holding a preliminary examination into allegations of extrajudicial killings and other abuses related to the "War on Drugs" in the Philippines.

The preliminary examination, different from a preliminary investigation in the Philippine justice system, may be finished by the first half of 2021, the office also says. 

October 14, 2016 - 7:16pm

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, reacting to the statement issued by the ICC prosecutor, says "drug-related killings, including vigilante killings, are not state-sanctioned."

"Many of those who died were killed during legitimate police operations which are currently undergoing investigation as directed by the president," Andanar says in a statement.

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