The International Criminal Court has announced a temporary suspension of a preliminary investigation into the Philippine government’s controversial campaign against drugs. The prosecutor has requested the Prosecutor General of the Hague-based court provide her with a report by March 20 on the status of the Philippine investigation, “procedural steps being taken to ensure that the court has jurisdiction, as well as on whether such jurisdiction should be sought.”
“Reports indicating that significant progress has been made in the Philippines’ efforts to comply with the ICC’s requirements for an investigation have been received,” said the statement from the office of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. “Based on these reports, the office has decided to postpone the start of the preliminary examination into the potential facts and circumstances of crimes allegedly committed in the Philippines.”
According to the Hague-based court’s website, the Prosecutor General shall “initiate, at the request of the Prosecutor, an investigation into potential facts and circumstances which give rise to crimes of concern to the Court, as defined by the Rome Statute. If the investigation is ultimately commenced, it will be suspended pursuant to the Rome Statute in the event that such a decision is made to discontinue the investigation once the investigation and all further proceedings are completed.”
The decision to suspend the preliminary investigation comes in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address, where he said that Filipino law should be allowed to take its course against drug dealers. Duterte’s remarks came after the ICC said it had taken a first step to launch an investigation into the killings of suspected drug dealers by officials last year. More than 8,000 suspected drug dealers have died, according to official figures, since Duterte was elected last year. Human rights groups, however, estimate that more than 12,000 have been killed.
It is not clear if the Philippines will allow the court to investigate, as the Rome Statute does not require a member state to prosecute grave crimes perpetrated in its territory. The news comes after the United States announced it would stop its participation in the court.
The news story is below.
The international war crimes court postponed a probe into the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs.
The Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court said Wednesday it had no power to start a preliminary examination in the country until it had been informed by the Philippines of how it would respond to the inquiry.
The office said it was postponing a formal investigation until prosecutors received information from the Philippines about whether it was willing to cooperate with the court, to address the prosecutor’s concerns about procedural steps being taken to ensure the court had jurisdiction and to submit a report by March 20 about the ongoing investigation.
“Reports indicating that significant progress has been made in the Philippines’ efforts to comply with the ICC’s requirements for an investigation have been received,” the office said in a statement. “Based on these reports, the office has decided to postpone the start of the preliminary examination into the potential facts and circumstances of crimes allegedly committed in the Philippines.”
Human rights groups have alleged that the drug crackdown has involved systematic extrajudicial killings in the south of the country, to rid the streets of dealers and curb the drug trade. The regional Ombudsman’s office is probing whether law enforcement officers or others violated the law and in many cases, international standards, and says hundreds of people have been killed.
Police say that killed only those who posed a danger to officers or caught them in the act of committing crimes, often shooting when they resisted arrest.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said that law enforcement authorities should be given more leeway in the fight against drugs. On Monday, he asked his newly appointed justice secretary to allow law enforcement officials to use their firearms to protect themselves against “rabid drug pushers and addicts” after top judges blocked his appointment of his allies to key judicial posts.
Human rights groups have said that as well as extrajudicial killings, the crackdown on drugs has included summary executions, including of children. Duterte denies the claims.