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Rights group calls for resumption of ICC probe into Philippines’ ’crimes against humanity’

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor temporarily suspended its investigative activities in the Philippines on November 18

Philippine human rights alliance Karapatan called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resume its investigation into the alleged “crimes against humanity” committed during the government’s anti-narcotics campaign.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor last week announced the temporary suspension of its investigative activities as it assesses the “scope and effect” of the request of the Philippine government to defer the investigation.

Karapatan, however, maintained that contrary to the claim of the Philippines in the deferral request that domestic institutions in the Philippines are “fully functional,” the country’s domestic mechanisms “are ineffective and are failing to hold perpetrators of human rights violators in the drug war accountable.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth than claiming that domestic institutions and mechanisms of accountability in the country are ‘fully functional,’” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, in a statement released on Monday, November 22.

“The truth of the matter is, and it is clear to see, that they are failing time and time again — and that is proven by the simple fact that the killings continue to this day,” she added.

On November 10, Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya wrote to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan on behalf of the Philippine government to request the ICC to defer its investigation into the crimes against humanity in the government’s “war on drugs.”

Data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency listed 6,165 people killed in anti-narcotics operations from July 2016 to June 2021, but human rights groups claimed that up to 30,000 people have been executed during the same period.

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The ICC Office of the Prosecutor temporarily suspended its investigative activities last Thursday, November 18, in response to the deferral request, as it requested additional information from the Philippine government.

In the deferral request, Malaya said that the Philippine government is “committed to the rule of law and with the highest regard to due process,” citing the Department of Justice’s investigation of 52 cases of deaths in the drug war as well as possibility of the DOJ tapping the “expertise” of the Administrative Order No. 35 Inter-Agency Task Force on political killings.

Karapatan’s Palabay, however, said that “the number of cases investigated by the DOJ — 52 out of thousands — already speaks of the Philippine government’s commitment to accountability, which is next to none.”

“Instead, these domestic mechanisms of accountability are being used by the administration [of President Rodrigo Duterte] as a window dressing to not only deter the ICC from investigating these alleged crimes against humanity but to stop the investigation altogether,” said Palabay.

“We hope that the deferral request can be seen for what it really is: an attempt to block justice and accountability,” she said, adding that the ICC must pursue its investigation into the Philippines “and prosecute Duterte for his crimes against the Filipino people.”

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