Following the disappointing news that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague will temporarily suspend its investigation of the Duterte government for its crimes against humanity, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) is requesting that all persons and organizations who are concerned about the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines write to the ICC on December 10th (International Human Rights Day) to urge them to continue the investigation.
The suspension of the investigation was based on a November 10th request from the Philippine government, that the ICC stop its investigation. The Philippines has posited two rationales for the request for suspension:
- that the Philippines is conducting its own investigation of these crimes and the intervention of the court is not required.
- that in most instance the police were defending themselves while apprehending suspects and that the killings are considered just.
Our recent Independent International Investigation into the ongoing killings and human rights violations (Investigate PH) was presented with clear forensic evidence that is contrary to government claims that police were defending themselves. Victims were executed in some instance after being bound. Victims showed defensive wounds where their hands were in the air at the time of their execution by police. A sample of forensic cases demonstrated that the victims were not fighting back, they were usually asleep at the time of the police raids and were killed subsequent to their apprehension.
On the question of the Philippines conducting its own investigations, when the former Prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda recommended the investigation in June 2021, the Philippine Department of Justice was trying to investigate 53 cases of police killings during anti-drug operations. The Secretary of Justice had been promising this in 5,655 cases since June 2020, without result. In fact, the police have reduced the number of files they are willing to share with the Dept of Justice by one, to 52. This request to the ICC to stop the investigation is a ploy designed for the domestic Philippine audience during the current election campaign season, and the ICC should not be distracted by it.
The Philippine government claim that it is actually investigating these alleged crimes also assumes an impartial and fully functioning judiciary. The Second Report of Investigate PH on the three wars showed how the Police, the Ombudsman, and the Courts have blocked all but one complaint in relation to deaths in police anti-drug operations. As well, this report showed that some judges supported police actions through issuing bogus warrants in the War on Dissent. The courts have been weaponized by the Duterte regime in its whole-of-nation approach to quell dissent and support deadly police and military action against Filipino citizens. There are no domestic remedies—the brave individuals who filed cases with the ICC did so because their complaints in the Philippines ran into a brick wall.
The killings of tens of thousands of Filipinos by police under Duterte are no accident—they are state policy. The War on Drugs in particular has been state strategy since the inauguration of Duterte on June 30, 2016. He clearly articulated an objective of ridding the country of its drug problem through murder. Time and again he promised police and military immunity from prosecution for waging war on drug suspect and dissenters. He has admitted that he and his government are guilty of extrajudicial killings. The Philippines had gone so far as to withdraw from the ICC to evade prosecution for any crimes committed after March 17th 2019.
To participate in the action, please add your name to the draft letter to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, and send your letter on December 10th via email, phone, or physical mail to:
Information and Evidence Unit
Office of the Prosecutor
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM The Hague
Tel: +31 (0)70 515 8304
Fax: +31 70 515 8555
In Peace and Solidarity
Chairperson of ICHRP