Int’l criminal court should probe Duterte’s war on drugs

Carmela Fonbuena

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Int’l criminal court should probe Duterte’s war on drugs
Former International Criminal Court official and Harvard law professor Alex Whiting says an urgent action from the court will send a strong signal to President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – A former official of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called on the court to open a probe into President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, arguing that the President’s own words “are compelling evidence that the killings to date have been sanctioned at the highest levels.”

“The time has come for the ICC to open a preliminary examination – the first step toward a full investigation – into allegations of the extrajudicial killings of as many as 3,000 suspected drug-dealers and users since Duterte became President last June,” said Alex Whiting, a Harvard Law professor and former ICC official, in a blog posted on Just Security on Monday, October 3. 

He said the killings are “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population” and thus constitute crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute. 

“The appalling announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines that he would like ‘to slaughter’ 3 million drug addicts in his country, much as ‘Hitler massacred three million Jews,’ (never mind that it was in fact six million), requires an immediate response from the International Criminal Court (ICC),” he added. 

Whiting hopes that an urgent action from ICC can “contribute to the prevention of crimes.”

“Opening a preliminary examination now does not commit the ICC to any ultimate course of action: it could subsequently decide or not decide to begin a full investigation. Starting an inquiry now, however, would unquestionably send a strong signal to Duterte that the day may come when he will have to answer for any crimes he has committed, ordered, tolerated or encouraged in the Philippines,” Whiting said.  

The ICC investigates genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Whiting previously served the ICC to oversee all of its investigations. 

ICC’s latest conviction was in March 2016, when it declared former Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of knowingly commanding a militia that committed mass murder and rape against neighboring Central African Republic.  

ICC’s jurisdiction

The ICC has jurisdiction over the Philippines because the country joined the court in 2011.  

Whiting said the ICC has no reason to delay action because its usual requirements – prove that the crimes are state sanctioned and prove the state has no intention to probe – have been established by Duterte’s own pronouncements. 

Whiting said Duterte cannot also argue that the killings are only targeting a specific group – suspects involved in illegal drugs trade – and not civilians in general. (READ: Execution at Cessna)

“A requirement that perpetrators intend to attack their victims because they are civilians has never been a feature of crimes against humanity, should not become one, and certainly should not be a basis to conclude that the extrajudicial killing of thousands of suspected drug dealers and users by state forces could not qualify as crimes against humanity,” Whiting wrote. (READ: The drug war: Danica, my Danica)

Duterte, in speeches around the country and in police and military camps, has used his colorful language to encourage the killing of suspected drug protectors and pushers. He has hurled invectives against countries and organizations that have raised their concern over the situation, even threatening to cut ties with the country’s longest ally, the US. 

Duterte is convinced that illegal drugs is the country’s biggest problem. The latest survey by the Philippines’ Dangerous Drugs Board estimates the number of drug users at 1.8 million Filipinos, or 1.8% of total population. 

His war on drugs has been linked to the death of at least 3,000 people allegedly involved in illegal drugs. –

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