Philippine government seeks suspension of ICC drug war probe

The Philippine government has sought the reversal of the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reopen an inquiry into the brutal anti-drugs campaign by former President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), in an appeals brief filed March 13, reiterated that the Hague-based tribunal has no jurisdiction as the Philippine government has pulled out of the Hague-based tribunal in 2019.

The ICC Prosecutor was allowed to conduct an investigation into the “Situation in the Philippines” for crimes committed in relation to the war on drugs. The alleged crimes happened at the time the Philippines was a member, citing that the cases within the period November 1, 2011 to March 16, 2019 will be included in the investigation.

The OSG, citing legal basis, said there are conditions that should be met before the investigation can take place.

There must be a State referral or in this case, the Philippine government’s referral of cases.

There also should be a referral from the United Nations Security Council and motu proprio prosecutor investigation or investigation of its own accord.

The OSG has also implied in its appeal brief that conditions under Article 12 should be met, which includes acceptance of the State of the investigation. The Philippines has to agree to the investigation of the ICC Prosecutor.

The Philippine government, through the OSG, is asking ICC to suspend the investigation while the appeal is ongoing; to suspend the authorization of the ICC to investigate; and to determine that the Prosecution is not authorized to conduct an investigation.

Restart investigation

In January 2023, the ICC said it had authorized the reopening of an inquiry into the war on drugs.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan asked to restart the inquiry, saying the Philippine government under Duterte’s successor, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., had not provided evidence it was carrying out thorough inquiries.

The ICC said its pre-trial chamber “is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court’s investigations”.

“The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps,” it added.

It can be recalled that former President Rodrigo Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the Hague-based tribunal in 2019 after the ICC initiated a preliminary investigation.

The probe was suspended after the Philippine government reviewed several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen and vigilantes.

Government records showed that at least 6,200 drug suspects have been killed in police operations from June 2016 until November 2021. Several human rights groups, however, refuted the data and claimed the actual death to stand at around 12,000 to 30,000.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch said the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that the death toll was at least 8,663. BAP/KG, GMA Integrated News

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