ICC probe a chance for justice for 'death squad' killings in Davao too — HRW

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ICC probe a chance for justice for 'death squad' killings in Davao too â HRW
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
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MANILA, Philippines — The decision of the International Criminal Court's pre-trial chamber to authorize an investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings in the government’s "war on drugs" is also a significant moment for families of those killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, a rights group said on Thursday.

The ICC on Wednesday formally authorized an official probe into crimes against humanity allegedly committed under the leadership of Duterte in the context of his signature anti-narcotics crackdown. 

The probe will also cover alleged killings in Davao City between 2011 and 2016, when he was in the local government of the southern Philippine city. 

"This is quite significant, and this is a momentous occasion obviously for the families of the victims of not just of the drug war, but of the Davao death squad killings," Human Rights Watch senior researcher Carlos Conde said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.

"The fact that the ICC pre-trial chamber included the killings from 2011 to 2016 is hugely, hugely important because they’re trying to establish these were very systematic and widespread crimes against humanity, and there are tons of evidence, of witnesses, of information that they can access to try to prove their case," added Conde, a journalist based in Davao City from 1996 to 2006.

The said killings were allegedly committed by the so-called "Davao Dead Squad", the original meaning of the acronym DDS.

"Persons involved in these killings in some cases appear to (be) the very same people that were later involved in the 'war on drugs' campaign," ICC prosecutors said. 

Conde said that the move of the Hague-based tribunal may push the relatives of those killed in the government’s "drug war" and death squad killings in Davao to "seek further justice."

"This will be justice to them. Even at the very, very early stage of this investigation, this already means a lot to them," Conde said.

"More importantly, as we move forward with this investigation and hopefully, the arrest and conviction that will happen will deter future leaders of this country from doing what Duterte has done. There has got to be a better way of address the problems of the society other than killing," he added.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said Duterte will not cooperate with the probe, claiming there is a lack of jurisdiction.  

The ICC, however, said it had jurisdiction over crimes committed while the Philippines was still a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC. 

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