The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a preliminary report on Tuesday that said “there is reasonable basis to believe” that major crimes have been committed in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, whose bloody drug war has left thousands dead since 2016.
The report was issued by Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the ICC found there was “a reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder, torture and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm” had taken place between July 01, 2016 and March 16, 2019.
Bensouda said her office anticipated reaching a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation by the first half of 2021.
President Duterte ordered the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, in March 2018. The withdrawal was formalized on March 17, 2019.
Critics of the president meanwhile said that he and his subordinates who committed crimes against humanity in the bloody war on drugs meant they could soon be made to answer for the thousands who were killed.
“The time for reckoning is near for Mr. Duterte, his cohorts, and enablers,” said former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, one of the President’s most strident critics.
Trillanes and former Magdalo party list Rep. Gary Alejano filed in June 2017 a “communication” or complaint in the ICC, urging the international tribunal to investigate Mr. Duterte for crimes against humanity as the government allegedly had shown no interest in holding him accountable.
“Duterte may try to ignore the jurisdiction of ICC over him, but deep inside he knows that he cannot get away from this one,” Trillanes said. “Having profiled Duterte, I am sure he is trembling in fear.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate sent out a similar message. “To the violators of human rights, you have been forewarned. Nothing is forever; not even impunity,” he said.
“We hope that the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC will seek authorization to open an investigation in the Philippines in the first half of 2021 or earlier if they can, so as to focus the international limelight in the horrid human rights situation in the country and help to put a stop to it,” Zarate said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque insisted that Mr. Duterte did not commit any crime against humanity.
Roque believes that the effort to investigate the President further will not succeed, citing the ICC panel’s decision in April last year to reject Bensouda’s request to probe possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, including those allegedly committed by US soldiers and intelligence agents.
Afghanistan is an ICC member, but the United States is not.
“So, we are confident because, as we said before, that [ruling]will [be]applied by the ICC—their ruling in one case—on why initiate a case if the country that was an ICC member would not cooperate?” Roque said.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said 5,942 people were killed in the drug war from July 2016 to Oct. 31 this year. Human rights watchdogs believe the figure could be nearly five times more. (Source: INQUIRER.net)