ICC can gather 'drug war' info while government seeks pause on probe — lawyer

ICC can gather 'drug war' info while government seeks pause on probe â lawyer
This undated photo shows people lighting candles to protest killings under the Duterte administration's 'war on drugs.'
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, File

MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court can proceed with taking testimonies and collecting documentary evidence on the Duterte administration's "war on drugs" despite the Philippine government’s appeal for suspension, according to lawyer and ICC assistant to counsel Kristina Conti.

Conti, who represents victims of the "drug war", said that the international court can continue its probe even as the Philippine government awaits a decision on its appeal to halt it.

"The Philippine government did ask for suspension while the appeal has not been resolved, but the Appeals Chamber must categorically make an order," Conti told Philstar.com in an online message. 

"Meanwhile, the investigation can proceed and the ICC investigators and prosecutorial team can proceed with the taking of testimonies and collection of documentary evidence."

Represented by Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, the Philippines lodged an appeal with the international court on Wednesday that sought to reverse the decision to resume its probe into the alleged crimes against humanity in the "war on drugs". 

Conti said that the government’s move to file an appeal with the ICC’s Appeals Chamber is in accordance with international rules and "is favorable to us … if only for the fact that we can engage with them formally."

However, the lawyer warned that the government’s appeal would lead to another round of protests over whether the international court had jurisdiction in the Philippines and the admissibility of the case. 

"Unfortunately, it would involve the same issues already passed upon by the (Office of the Prosecutor) and the (Pre-Trial Chamber), so the decision of the Appeals Chamber would lead to a crucial, critical conclusion to the merit of the arguments," Conti added.

"In court, unlike in the public arena, we cannot keep rehashing the same points over and over again, without weeding out the false, the incorrect, and the unreasonable," the lawyer added.

Gov't delaying justice for EJK victims

Meanwhile, the co-chairperson of the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court scored the government for attempting to delay the investigation, which "counters the quest for justice of the families of victims of extrajudicial killings due to the violent 'war on drugs.'"

"The Philippine government's appeal at the ICC doused cold water to the ray of hope for justice at the international court among the families of the tens of thousands killed in the War on Drugs," said Aurora Parong, who is also chairperson of human rights group Amnesty International Philippines. 

Parong also questioned President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.’s commitment to human rights and the delivery of justice during his term.

"Where is the commitment to human rights which President Marcos Jr. repeatedly talks about in his diplomatic meetings?  Where is 'real justice in real time' that is repeatedly announced by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla?" Parong said. — Cristina Chi






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