July 19, 2023
On 18 July 2023, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “Court”), confirmed the authorization for the ICC Prosecutor to resume its investigations of the crime against humanity of murder in the Republic of the Philippines. The Court dismissed the Philippines ground of appeal that the Court cannot exercise its jurisdiction over the Philippines situation because the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute. This was the final avenue of appeal for the Marcos-Duterte government in their attempt to evade prosecution for crimes against humanity.
The Court had previously determined that the Philippine government had neither the capacity nor the willingness to investigate the crimes of murder committed during the “War on Drugs”, which constitute potential crimes against humanity. The Chamber had previously concluded, in the face of the Philippines earlier attempts to evade culpability, that the various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the Court’s investigation.
The decision to proceed with the investigation aligns with the work of other bodies such as the 2021 Investigate PH Commission of Investigation which concluded that domestic measures were effectively not functioning, and there was no evidence to support the Philippine government’s contention that victims could find justice in the Philippine courts. The judicial system itself was in fact being wielded as an instrument in the Philippine government’s campaign of state terror.The three-part reports of Investigate PH were submitted to international bodies including the ICC.
The ICC decision to continue the pursuit of justice lays bare the Marcos Administration’s culpability in shielding the Duterte regime’s policies of impunity and state terror that killed up to 30,000 or more, and victimized Filipinos for six long years. “We are once again extremely appreciative of the decision of the ICC to continue the pursuit of justice against the perpetrators of these crimes,” said Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).
“The court continues to offer hope to victims and victims’ families in their pursuit of justice against the Duterte regime’s brutal war on drugs, on dissent and on the Moro and all Indigenous Peoples. We continue to believe that Justice will be served despite the Marcos-Duterte administration’s decision to keep the Philippines outside the jurisdiction of the ICC and their on-going attempts to cover-up the crimes against humanity committed by the police and the military under Duterte,: said Murphy
The Marcos-Duterte administration is simply continuing its brutal predecessor’s “war on drugs” and war on dissent. ICHRP believes the investigation by the ICC may not stop the Marcos-Duterte government from sheltering the perpetrators from prosecution or prevent such crimes from continuing to occur, but it can provide some constraint and a measure of justice to the victims.
ICHRP congratulates the ICC for cutting through the fog of lies and false claims laid out by the Marcos-Duterte government that the Philippines is exempt from prosecution because it no longer recognizes the jurisdiction of the court. In the context of a dysfunctional judicial system the ICC plays an essential role in holding to account the actions of the former President, his officials and the military’s roles in these gross violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.
“ICHRP has full confidence in the impartiality of the ICC. We urge the ICC to vigorously pursue the full investigation of the previous Duterte administration for these crimes against humanity so that, finally, justice may be served and impunity ended,” Murphy said.
Murphy, an Australian-based human rights advocate, led Investigate PH, a 2021 three-part investigation by an independent international commission on the extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, abductions and disappearances in the Philippines since July 1, 2016, when President Duterte came into power. ###
For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301