Int'l criminal court 'closely following' PH war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines – The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is "closely following" the war on drugs in the Philippines to see if the spate of deaths in the past 3 months may be considered "extrajudicial killings" that warrant a preliminary examination.

"My Office, in accordance with its mandate under the Rome Statute, will be closely following developments in the Philippines in the weeks to come and record any instance of incitement or resort to violence with a view to assessing whether a preliminary examination into the situation of the Philippines needs to be opened," said ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a statement posted on the ICC website on Thursday, October 13.

The war on drugs in the Philippines has been linked to more than 3,000 deaths. Bensouda said extrajudicial killings may fall under the ICC jurisdicition if they are "committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to a State policy to commit such an attack."

Bensouda said she is "deeply concerned" that "public statements of high officials of the Republic of the Philippines seem to condone such killings and further seem to encourage State forces and civilians alike to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force."

Bensouda did not name the "high officials."

"Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the Court," Bensouda said. 

The statement of the ICC prosecutor came after former ICC official and Harvard law professor Alex Whiting called for an urgent action from the court to send a strong signal to President Rodrigo Duterte

Whiting said the words of President Rodrigo Duterte "are compelling evidence that the killings to date have been sanctioned at the highest levels."

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. (READ: The drug war: Legendary)

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

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.

Bensouda's office are at present conducting investigations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic, Kenya; Libya; Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Georgia.

It is also conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Gabon, Guinea, Iraq/United Kingdom, Palestine, Nigeria and Ukraine. –