Karapatan urges ICC to resume investigation into crimes vs humanity in the drug war

Human rights alliance Karapatan called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor to resume its investigation into the crimes against humanity in the drug war, following the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s temporary suspension of its investigative activities as it assesses the “scope and effect” of the request of the Philippine government to defer the investigation in the Philippines.

Contrary to the claim of Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya in the deferral request that domestic institutions in the Philippines are “fully functional,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asserted that “the reality is plain to see; 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.’ 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,” Palabay stated on Monday.

On November 10, 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 Duterte administration’s war on drugs, which has claimed 6,165 lives in anti-narcotics operations from July 2016 to June 2021, according to data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

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 Philippines government to assess the scope and effect of the request and to determine whether or not it would continue investigating as it continues to analyze information “already in its possession.”

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 (DOJ) 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.

The Karapatan official averred, however, 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, not to mention that the Administrative Order No. 35’s task force on extrajudicial killings still has to make any significant progress in stopping the killings of activists, human rights defenders, and journalists.”

“Instead, these domestic mechanisms of accountability are being used by the Duterte administration as a window dressing to not only deter the ICC from investigating these alleged crimes against humanity but to stop the investigation altogether. This only means one thing: the government wants to continue killing with impunity, with explicit orders coming from President Rodrigo Duterte himself,” she said.

“Duterte and other respondents in the ICC process are not even subjects of investigations in the DOJ’s review. We hope that the deferral request can be seen for what it really is: an attempt to block justice and accountability. The ICC must pursue its investigation into the Philippines and prosecute Duterte for his crimes against the Filipino people,” Palabay ended.