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International court urged to try Duterte for mass murders

THE FAMILIES of suspected pushers killed in the government’s war on drugs have asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to admit more evidence about President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity.

In a 10-page motion dated Jan. 21 but released only at the weekend, seven people and human rights group Rise Up for Life and for Rights cited a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report in June 2020 that “clearly detailed widespread, unrelenting human rights abuses and violations related to the war on drugs.”

At least 8,663 people have been killed based on official figures — 73 of them children — although some estimates put the toll at 27,000, the plaintiffs said in their pleading, a copy of which was e-mailed by their lawyers.

“The killings have continued in the midst of the pandemic crisis,” they said, citing Amnesty International.

Given the failure of local agencies to ensure accountability, “there is a need for independent, impartial, credible investigations into all allegations of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

Presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque, Jr. did not immediately reply to two mobile phone messages seeking comments.

The ICC was set up in 2002 to probe and prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when local courts failed to do so. The Philippine Senate in 2011 ratified the court’s founding document.

Local government units (LGUs) have now adopted the tactics used in the war on drugs to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the plaintiffs said.

“The police, basing their assessment only through hearsay by neighbors, will conduct house-to-house searches for people who might have been infected with the novel coronavirus and then forcibly relocate them to government-run isolation facilities,” they added.

They also accused Mr. Duterte of impeding justice when he threatened outgoing ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda with arrest if she tried to investigate him in the Philippines.

“You cannot exercise any proceedings here without basis,” he said at that time. “That is illegal and I will arrest you.”

“The ICC prosecutor should immediately initiate an investigation in relation to these offenses against the administration of justice,” the plaintiffs said.

“Respondent Duterte should be held accountable for his blatant attempt to pervert the course of justice by intimidating and retaliating against the officials of the court,” they added.

The group said the threat against ICC and Ms. Bensouda violated the Rome Statute, which prohibits “impeding, intimidating or corruptly influencing an official of the court for the purpose of forcing or persuading the official not to perform, or to perform improperly, his or her duties.”

The Philippines in 2019 withdrew from the ICC after it opened a preliminary probe of the Duterte government for alleged human rights violations in connection with his drug war that has killed thousands.

Mr. Duterte had said the ICC does not have jurisdiction over him, noting that the Rome Statute was never published in the country’s official journal. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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