Karapatan supports call of families of drug war victims for ICC probe

Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Reuters

Four years since the tragic killing of 17-year-old senior high school student Kian Loyd Delos Santos, human rights alliance Karapatan expressed support for families of drug war victims as they press forward in calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to pursue its investigation into the extrajudicial killings and other crimes against humanity committed by the Duterte administration in its sham and bloody war on drugs.

“Despite the urgent calls for justice and to stop the killings four years ago when Kian was murdered, Duterte continues to wage his murderous campaigns such as the drug war — and the killings and abuses have worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of families continue to suffer the grief of loss as they cry out for justice, and we join them in calling on the ICC to prosecute Duterte for his crimes and atrocities against the Filipino people,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

On June 14, former ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber to initiate an investigation into the killings under Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, stretching all the way back to his terms as vice mayor and mayor of Davao City. According to data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the death toll in anti-drug operations has reached 6,165 as of June 2021, and thousands more summarily executed by unidentified gunmen in vigilante-style killings remain unaccounted for.

Last Friday, August 13, families of drug war victims led by Rise Up for Life and for Rights together with their legal counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers submitted their representations as part of the ICC’s victim representation process, together with submissions on views of victims and kin, ahead of a decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber on whether or not the court will approve the Office of the Prosecutor’s request to investigate the killings and other human rights violations in the drug war.

Palabay asserted that “while the government uses the rightful conviction of Kian’s killers to claim that domestic mechanisms of accountability are working and to dissuade investigations by international bodies, nothing could be further from the truth when these mechanisms have proven to be slow, ineffective, and virtually non-existent for thousands of other families who now see the possibility of an ICC investigation as their most crucial shot at justice.”

“The government was cornered with the outrage for Kian’s murder because the crimes committed by the police were undeniable, but for many other cases, the police’s refusal to open documents and cooperate with investigations along with the persistent ‘nanlaban’ narrative and patterns of planting evidence make it impossible for families to file cases and seek justice — all while Duterte continues to goad the police to ‘add another’ dead body in the death toll of its campaigns of mass murder,” she said.

The Karapatan official continued that “the same narratives to justify the killings and violence in the drug war are being alarmingly used in the murders of activists and human rights defenders in police and military counterinsurgency operations. Amid a massive red-tagging campaign against dissenters, Duterte’s ‘shoot them dead’ order against communist rebels in his last State of the Nation Address mirrors the same orders he repeatedly gave in the drug war, and it only means one thing: more killings.”

“An investigation by the ICC is an urgent and significant step to prosecute Duterte for his crimes against humanity. We cannot let this murderous regime to continue its carnage with impunity. We call on the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to listen and act on the pleas of the families of drug war victims for justice, and for Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan to pursue investigating the drug war. Genuine justice for Kian cannot come without justice for all and putting an end to the killings in the Philippines,” Palabay ended.