The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on November 18, 2021 that it would temporarily halt the investigation into crimes against humanity – just two months after the investigation began. A request was made through the Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands, Eduardo Malaya. It argued for the investigation to be postponed because the national judicial system would function adequately. In particular, this is supposedly justified by the ongoing reviews of deaths during police operations by the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ released information and analysis on 52 cases in October.
In his statement, the ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan stated that the Philippine government must submit information promptly. This should be “tangible evidence, of probative value and a sufficient degree of specificity, demonstrating that concrete and progressive investigative steps that have been or are currently being undertaken.” During the pause, the ICC will continue to analyze both existing and further incoming information. Also, it will pay special attention to the safety and well-being of victims and witnesses.
There has been an outcry over the ICC’s decision. In a letter to the ICC, affected families of the so-called war on drugs demand the resumption of the investigation. They say that the only intention of the Philippine government is to delay and obstruct the proceedings. The families oppose the government’s claim that the national judicial system is capable or willing to investigate the committed crimes. The authors criticize as insufficient the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation of only 52 of an estimated 30,000 cases. Moreover, the cases are not examined in their context of systematic state crimes. In addition, the Philippine government does not investigate high-level alleged perpetrators, such as the president himself.
Peter Murphy, the chairman of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), expresses disappointment: “Any suspension or delay is an absolute betrayal of those brave individuals who came forward at great personal risk to provide evidence and testimony regarding these alleged crimes.” The human rights groups Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), CenterLaw, or Human Rights Watch also expressed dismay.