war on drugs

ICC chamber junks PH’s petition to suspend resumption of drug war probe

Jodesz Gavilan

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ICC chamber junks PH’s petition to suspend resumption of drug war probe
The International Criminal Court says the Philippines is 'in a position to continue its [national] investigations irrespective of the ongoing proceedings' before the appeals chamber

MANILA, Philippines – The International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected the bid of the Philippine government to suspend an ongoing investigation into former president Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs while appeal proceedings are being held.

In a decision dated Monday, March 27, the ICC appeals chamber highlighted the “absence of persuasive reasons in support of ordering suspensive effect” that the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sought against a court ruling that allowed the probe to continue.

This means that ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is free to continue his office’s investigation into the violent war on drugs, a move that the ICC pre-trial chamber authorized in January 2023.

The Philippine government filed its appeal brief against the resumption of the probe on March 13, in which it asked the chamber to grant a “suspensive effect” until the resolution of its appeal.

In junking the plea, the chamber said that the Philippine government “fails to explain how the alleged absence of jurisdictional or legal basis for the resumption of the Prosecutor’s activities pending the resolution of the appeal” would create an irreversible situation, among others.

“The Appeals Chamber notes that as far as national investigations are concerned, the Philippines is in a position to continue its investigations irrespective of the ongoing proceedings before the Court,” the decision stated.

The ICC appeals chamber also noted that it would have preferred that the Philippine government provided “any reasons and arguments in support” of its suspension request when it first signified its intent to appeal.

The court decision is the latest development in the ICC proceedings in relation to Duterte’s drug war, which killed at least 6,252 individuals in police anti-illegal drug operations alone as of May 2022. This number does not include those killed vigilante-style, which human rights groups estimate to be between 27,000 and 30,000. 

The ICC appeals chamber recently allowed families of victims to comment on the Philippine government’s appeal, saying that it is “appropriate for victims to be involved in these appeal proceedings.”

There has been no significant development in families’ quest for justice in the Philippines. Only three have been convicted so far in relation to the drug war – policemen involved in the killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos and the deaths of Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman.

The Marcos administration has so far echoed the same messaging spread during the Duterte presidency against ICC proceedings, falsely pointing out that this is a sovereignty issue. The former president’s allies in Congress have also proposed resolutions calling for the “unequivocal defense” of Duterte. – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.