International Criminal Court (ICC) examines investigation

On June 14, 2021, Fatou Bensouda, the (now former) Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), filed the formal 57-page request for judicial authorization to investigate crimes against humanity in the context of the so-called war on drugs. According to Bensouda, there is solid information about crimes against humanity in the period under investigation, between July 1, 2016, and March 16, 2019, through extrajudicial killings (EJK) of between 12,000 and 30,000 civilians. “Police and other government officials planned, ordered, and sometimes directly perpetrated extrajudicial killings,” and supportive public statements by state officials created a culture of impunity. In the request, . It is also seeking the inclusion of supporting materials as of November 1, 2011, which, if granted, could also hold Duterte accountable for his operation of the DDS as then-mayor of Davao City.

The ICC is asking survivors and victims of the so-called war on drugs, or their representatives, to submit their representations by August 13 before the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber makes a final decision on the request for investigation. Organizations representing affected persons, ,as well as witnesses, survivors, and victims, are aware of possible risks such as intimidation and threats that participation in the lawsuit may bring. For many survivors, the possibility of a full investigation means at least an acknowledgement of their loss. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long. Many times, we felt tired, we felt hopeless but we held on. If we don’t keep on fighting for justice, the death of our loved ones will mean nothing,” said one of the complainants.

Although the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) upheld its withdrawal from the ICC on March 17, 2019, while the preliminary investigation was already ongoing, the ICC still has jurisdiction over the case since the complaint was filed earlier. Nevertheless, an ICC investigation is only admissible if it can be proven that the Philippines is unable and unwilling to investigate the extrajudicial killings in the context of the so-called war on drugs with its own legal system. Whether Duterte or others would even face a sentence after conviction remains questionable. The ICC cannot conduct trials in absentia, and any arrest would thus be contingent on cooperation with Philippine law enforcement.

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