Top prosecutor finds ‘reasonable basis’ for crimes against humanity . . .
In a preliminary report released this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) determined that there is “a reasonable basis to believe that . . . crimes against humanity have been committed in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.” The report, issued by ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, outlines preliminary examinations into the alleged crimes of torture, murder, and other inhumane acts throughout Duterte’s relentless ‘war on drugs,’ and covers the period between July 1, 2016, and March 16, 2019. Of particular interest to the ICC are the allegations that Duterte and other senior government officials have actively promoted the violent and unlawful killings of suspected drug dealers and addicts.
The bloody numbers . . .
Duterte claims that his violent campaign is necessary to eradicate the Philippines' illicit drug trade, a narrative that the ICC report maintains has been widely challenged. The report argues that the use of lethal force has been disproportionate and unnecessary, resulting in “arbitrary, or extrajudicial, executions.” Death statistics released in December 2019 by the Philippine police estimated at least 5,500 people were slain in police operations between June 2016 and December 2019. However, that number was revised down without explanation from a police report in June that listed more than 6,000 deaths. Meanwhile, human rights advocates and independent counts estimate that more than 25,000 people were killed in the drug war by mid-2019.
Political pressure despite uncertainty . . .
Citing delays due to the pandemic, the ICC’s Bensouda said that the ICC will decide whether to proceed with a formal investigation by the first half of 2021. Philippine senators, particularly members of the opposition, support the report and hope that action from the ICC will bring justice to the thousands of victims and their families. Duterte’s allies in the government brushed off the report, saying the ICC has no jurisdiction in the country. The ICC investigation has enraged the president. He had earlier withdrawn the Philippines from the international treaty establishing the ICC in 2018. Nonetheless, the report puts further international and domestic pressure on the Duterte administration to reduce the violence. It may also prompt internal investigations and court cases seeking justice for victims.