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ICC urged to proceed with 'drug war' probe to not further delay justice for victims

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
ICC urged to proceed with 'drug war' probe to not further delay justice for victims
The seat of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands is seen in this photo release by the International Commission of Jurists, a non-governmental organization advocating for human rights.
ICJ / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court must proceed with its full probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed in the context of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs” to not further delay the service of justice to victims, the Human Rights Watch said.

HRW Asia director Brad Adams said the Philippine government’s request to defer ICC investigation is "a transparent delaying tactic to protect officials responsible for mass killings."

"The ICC prosecutor should seek to resume its official investigation so that justice for victims isn’t further delayed," he added.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, in a document dated November 18, said they will temporarily suspend its investigation into the Philippines as it "assesses the scope and effect" of the government’s request for deferral that cited the Department of Justice-led probe into "war on drugs" operations that resulted in death.

Under the Rome Statute, a State may inform the ICC of probes into acts that may fall under the crimes being investigated by the criminal court.

Khan, in a statement issued six days later, explained that while the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor has temporarily suspended the investigation, it will continue its analysis on information it has on hand and it may also look into any new information they may receive from third parties.

Pursuant to ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence, Khan also said they will request the Philippines to “provide substantiating information” on investigations it cited in its request.

DOJ probe

In urging the ICC to proceed with its probe, the HRW also noted that the Philippine government, through its Department of Justice, has not responded to their November 10 letter asking for details on its investigation into "war on drug" operations where supposed drug "personalities" are killed.

The New York-based rights watchdog has asked the DOJ about the timing of the review, names and ranks of police officers implicated in the report and whether their commanders are being investigated for their culpability.

The HRW has also expressed concerns that the DOJ review "raises a number of questions with important implications for the protection of human rights and the rule of law in the Philippines."

The DOJ has so far looked into 300 cases in its initial report submitted to Duterte, and covered 52 other cases where the police found direct liability on officers involved in "war on drugs" operations where fatalities were reported.

READ: DOJ review finds lapses in 'drug war' ops commonly punished with suspension

Victims of the "drug war" and lawyers who represent them have already urged the ICC to proceed with its probe, as they asserted that there remains no genuine domestic investigation into the operations.

Adams echoed this in his statement. He said: "The Duterte administration has never been serious about the ICC’s accountability process, evident most recently in its wholly unwarranted request for a deferral of the investigation."

"In the meantime, the ‘drug war’ killings go on, the victims’ families continue to grieve, and those responsible remain free," he added.

Duterte on Monday ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government to prepare a report on the “war on drugs” even as he insisted that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the case.

"It’s intended to apprise the human rights advocates. Maybe when the time comes, we can show to the ICC the reasons why we are not, why I am not going to bow down to their jurisdiction because they would see the enormity of the problem of shabu in the country,"  he said. — with reports from The STAR/Alexis Romero

DRUG WAR

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

RODRIGO DUTERTE

WAR ON DRUGS

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