Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday said that the move of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to conduct a preliminary examination on the alleged summary executions related to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to suppress the narcotics problem in the Philippines should prompt United Nations member countries to oppose Duterte’s bloody drug war campaign, and call for a probe into the alleged extrajudicial killings under his drug war.
“Such an investigation would send the message that UN member countries strongly support justice in the Philippines and put further pressure on the Duterte government to stop the killings and to cooperate with efforts to hold those responsible to account,” HRW’s Associate Director in International Justice program Param-Preet Singh said.
Singh added that the preliminary examination is a point of entry to determine a possible basis for a formal investigation.
“An ICC preliminary examination is not a full-blown, on-the-ground investigation. But it’s a first step to determine a possible basis for a formal ICC investigation and sends an important signal that the severity of the alleged abuses warrants the prosecutor’s scrutiny,” he said.
According to Singh, the ICC’s action to conduct a preliminary investigation is a “rebuke of the Philippine government’s campaign of denial and distraction seemingly designed to deflect growing evidence of extrajudicial executions that Duterte and senior government officials have incited and instigated.”
Singh also criticized Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque after the latter said that the investigation would be a “waste of time and resources” for the court. She stressed that the response of Duterte’s spokesperson is just an example of government efforts to deny “horrific human toll of the anti-drug campaign.”
Roque said earlier that the intent of preliminary examination is to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, and is different from the preliminary investigation.
Palace also expressed confidence saying the President welcomes the preliminary examination as he is “sick and tired” of being accused of crimes against humanity.
Roque said that the ICC’s launching of the preliminary examination is an opportunity to prove that the case is not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.
“This is an opportunity for him to prove that this is not subject to the court’s jurisdiction because of both complementarity that domestic courts; and the fact that we have a domestic international humanitarian law statute in our jurisdiction are reasons enough for the court not to exercise jurisdiction,” he said.
The examination stemmed from a complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other government officials before the ICC, where Duterte was tagged as a “mass murderer.” The complaint also seeks to bring a suit against Duterte for “the terrifying and gruesome situation of continuing mass murder in the Philippines.”
In April 2017, lawyer Jude Sabio, counsel of hitman Edgar Matobato asked ICC to institute legal proceedings against the president over his alleged involvement in the so-called Davao Death Squad.
In the same year, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed a supplemental communication against Duterte and other officials before ICC.