MANILA, Philippines – If the unexplained killings continue, President Rodrigo Duterte may face charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said this on Tuesday, August 23, when asked by Senator Leila De Lima, chairperson of the committee on justice and human rights, on the role of the ICC.
CHR chairperson Jose Luis Martin "Chito" Gascon said the ICC may exercise jurisdiction over the matter if the government fails to address the issue.
"Failure of government to address this situation currently prevailing, the unexplained extrajudicial killings, and to provide remedies in terms of prosecution of perpetrators could result in the possibility of the International Criminal Court exercising jurisdiction over those matters if we fail to do so," Gascon said during the second Senate hearing on the extrajudicial killings attributed to the current campaign against drugs.
Citing the Rome Statute, Gascon said the ICC can probe killings in the country if the Philippines is either "unable or unwilling" to prosecute cases. After all, the Philippines, he said, is a signatory to the said convention in 2011.
"In fact, the United Nations has mechanism of monitoring and international criminal court as well. They receive information on a regular basis. They can conduct consultation, provide advisory support for us to address concern. And if these concerns are not adequately addressed, then their prosecution will make a recommendation of assumption of jurisdiction," Gascon explained.
Meanwhile, on the definition of extrajudicial killings, Gascon said the drug-related deaths are still considered as such based on the UN definition.
Citing the 2008 report of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Gascon said extrajudicial killings refer to any killing sanctioned by the government.
"Sabi niya sa kanyang report, ang extrajudicial killing ay any killing by government as well as others that the government failed to investigate," said Gascon.
(He said in his report that an extrajudicial killing is any killing by government as well as others that the government failed to investigate.)
Gascon said that while Alston's report focused on attacks against the media or human rights defenders, his definition of extrajudicial killings also covers "the scenario we are currently facing."
Crimes vs humanity
The ICC is an international judicial body that covers only 4 crimes: genocide, war crimes, aggression, and crimes against humanity.
If the killings don’t stop, Gascon said they might fall under crimes against humanity. (READ: Drilon asks Bato in disbelief: 137 deaths in just a day?)
"Kung dumami po itong nangyayari at hindi po natin ginagawa ang lahat para matugunan ito at magkaroon ng prosecution at accountability, ICC provides for the situation for crimes against humanity," Gascon said.
(If the killings continue and we do not do everything to address it and to ensure prosecution and accountability, ICC provides for the situation for crimes against humanity.)
In explaining crimes against humanity, the CHR chief said there are two conditions that must be proven – that the crime is widespread and systematically done.
Gascon explained that "widespread" does not necessarily mean there are many incidents of the crime.
"Widespread, 'di po nakatala sa bilang. Kundi yung condition na 'di po nabibigyan ng sapat na remedy. Walang fixed numbers. (Widespread is not based on numbers. It is based on the condition that it was not given enough remedy. There are no fixed numbers.) There have been instances by other courts that a single act qualified as crimes against humanity if it is undertaken in systematic attack," he said.
"Systematic," meanwhile, refers to a crime that is sanctioned by the state – something difficult to prove, De Lima said.
“State-inspired is difficult to prove. But it’s the totality of the circumstance, totality of the cases because you know heads of state will not admit that policy," De Lima said.
De Lima, former CHR chairperson, then reiterated that the Senate inquiry aims to prevent the current administration from facing possible international charges, contrary to accusations she is attacking Duterte for his strong stance against crime and drugs. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org