File criminal charges against Pres. Duterte over activist killings, ICC urged

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A leftist political group in the Philippines urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to file criminal complaints against President Rodrigo Duterte for the recent spate of activist killings.

Party-list group Bayan Muna (Country First) said on Wednesday, the death of Negros-based activist Zara Alvarez and other incidents could be blamed on Duterte and his administration.

“We urge the International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensoda to file the case against Pres. Duterte in the International Criminal Court so that a warrant of arrest can immediately be issued against him,” Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said in a statement.

“Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is ultimately accountable for publicly threatening human rights activists and practically ordering their killings. Despite his cowardly denial of his involvement in extrajudicial killings he has not publicly withdrawn his threats against activists nor ordered the perpetrators to stop the killings,” Colmenares said.

On Monday, Zara Alvarez, a non-governmental organisation human rights paralegal staffer, was gunned down by an unidentified assailant in Bacolod City, in the central Visayan island of Negros.

A week earlier, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Echanis was killed inside his rented home in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Activist groups have blamed the administration for the two recent killings, but presidential spokesperson Harry Roque maintained that the administration was against any form of violence against citizens, including activists criticising the government.

In its investigation of the Echanis case, the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) asked relatives and friends of the slain consultant to refrain from blaming authorities immediately without offering any conclusive evidence.

Colmenares was one of the lawyers who filed complaints against Duterte before the ICC for allegedly committing crimes against humanity under the controversial war against illegal drugs.

In December 2019, the ICC said that the investigation and assessment of the complaints against Duterte would continue despite the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute — the international agreement that created the ICC.

But according to activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the administration can still prove its sincerity in denouncing the killing of Alvarez and Echanis by ordering a probe of the incidents, including other attacks against activists in the past five months.

“Now that the administration has condemned the killings of activists, it should probe why at least four prominent activists have been killed in the past 5 months. It should issue an order to all state forces to stop red-tagging, stop harassment and stop all attacks on activists,” Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes said.

Reyes also insisted that the red-tagging and harassment that the victims received were not merely coincidental to their deaths.

“The suspicion that state forces are behind the killings stem from the unabated red-tagging and slander done against activists by state forces themselves. First activists are slandered then they are set up for the kill. Coincidence?  We don’t think so.  We look at this as some sinister state-policy,” Reyes explained.

“The killings must stop. It is the obligation of the Philippine government, as signatory to various human rights treaties, to stop the killings. Not one more activist should be killed,” he added. (Source: INQUIRER.net)

 

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