MANILA – The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is continuing its “thorough factual and legal assessment” of available information on the Philippine drug war to determine if it has jurisdiction over alleged crimes under the Rome Statute.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda revealed this on Wednesday in her annual report on preliminary examination activities of her office.
In her 4-page report on the Philippines, Bensouda disclosed that since the start of the preliminary examination on the country’s drug war on February 8, 2018, her office has received 52 communications.
While the prosecutor did not specify from whom the communications came from, she said her office has been examining “publicly available information and information from individuals or groups, non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations,” assessing the “reliability of sources and credibility of the information” it has received.
The goal is to determine if there is reasonable basis to believe that the ICC has jurisdiction over the alleged crimes.
Under the Rome Statute which created the ICC, the international body may only investigate alleged crimes if the “State is unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the investigation or prosecution."
Among the crimes punishable under the ICC are genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.
Based on Bensouda’s report, President Rodrigo Duterte and other senior government officials are accused of promoting and encouraging “the killing of suspected or purported drug users and/or dealers, and in such context, members of PNP forces and private individuals (such as vigilante groups) have carried out thousands of killings throughout the Philippines,” particularly in Metro Manila.
It cited 12,000 deaths due either to involvement in drug use or drug-dealing, mistaken identity, or as collateral damage in the anti-drug operations of Philippine police.
Of this number, the report said 4,800 deaths allegedly took place during police operations.
It also noted claims that thousands have been killed by unknown assailants, and that police officers were behind or themselves committed vigilante-style killings.
According to the report, most of the victims were poor young men in urban areas with over 70 of them minors.
Also included in the report are allegations that some local officials were reportedly killed because of their alleged links to the illegal drug trade.
LEGAL AND FACTUAL ANALYSIS
Bensouda said that in making its legal and factual analysis, her office examined the circumstances surrounding the incident such as profile of the alleged victims, the identity of perpetrators and the modus operandi employed.
It also consulted with stakeholders and considered the overall context.
Cited as contextual background in the report were Mr. Duterte’s fight against crime and drugs when he was mayor of Davao City where he allegedly supported killings of petty criminals and drug dealers, his campaign promise to end drugs and criminality within 6 months, the launch of the drug war shortly after he came to power, and his regular public statements expressing continued support to the campaign.
It noted statements of concern on alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and criticisms from the United Nations Secretary General, UN bodies and experts, different countries, international NGOs and national civil society representatives.
Bensouda herself, in October 2016, expressed concern over purported EJKs in the country and warned of potential prosecution under the ICC.
Aside from examining existing information, Bensouda said her office will follow developments in the Philippines and warned that “any alleged crimes occurring in the future in the context of the same situation could also be included in the Office’s analysis.”
The ICC prosecutor’s preliminary examination will cover incidents that took place in the Philippines since the start of war on drugs on July 1, 2016 until the country remains a state party to the Rome Statute.
The Philippines, which ratified the treaty in August 2011, withdrew on March 17, 2018. Mr. Duterte himself announced the withdrawal citing a “concerted effort” between UN special rapporteurs and the ICC special prosecutor to paint him as a ruthless and heartless human rights violator who allegedly caused thousands of extrajudicial killings.”
The withdrawal from the Rome Statute will take effect a year after.
A petition questioning the Philippines’ withdrawal is currently pending before the Supreme Court.