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IDEFEND welcomes the decision of the ICC Prosecutor to conduct a preliminary investigation into EJKs under the government’s war on illegal drugs

Friday, 9 February 2018

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement welcomes the decision of the ICC Prosecutor to conduct a preliminary investigation into EJKs under the government’s war on illegal drugs. iDEFEND considers it as a critical opportunity for government to seriously re-asses its violent approach to the drugs issue in the country and to finally abandon the current war on drugs.

The Philippines ratified the ICC Statute on August 30, 2011, giving the ICC jurisdiction over defined crimes as well as committing its full cooperation in the enforcement of the Court’s duties. Prior to this the Philippines had actively participated in the drafting of its Statute (Rome Statute), defining the crimes under the ICC jurisdiction (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, crimes of aggression), and influencing other Asian states to ratify the same.

In investigating the cases of extrajudicial killings under the government’s war on drugs, iDEFEND prays that the Office of the Prosecutor considers that the drug war policy which has resulted in the very same extrajudicial killings is still very much in force in the country and that the main perpetrators, the national police, are still its main implementors.

The Court must look into the criminal liability of President Rodrigo Duterte as the highest power enforcing this violent drug policy. He has strengthened impunity when he repeatedly promised to protect and pardon law enforcers found to have committed these crimes in the execution of their duties. President Duterte has likewise fuelled hate and vilification of the critics of extrajudicial killings by accusing them of supporting drug criminals, and has threatened to kill human rights advocates in the same way as the criminals.

The Court must consider that the drug war has targeted the poorest sections of the Philippine population, which was labeled by government as drug abusers and petty peddlers. This has resulted in more than 12,000 killings by national police operatives, their civilian agents and informers, as well as unknown assailants usually riding-in-tandem on motorcycles. Nearly two years into Duterte’s term, the majority of these cases remain unsolved and uninvestigated by government.

iDEFEND prays that the Court’s Prosecutor take into serious account that political persecution of the media who are reporting on the killings, as well of independent government agencies trying to enforce checks and balances, has made it nearly impossible to find remedies within the Philippine legal system.

The drug war policy has been accompanied by an extended martial law in Mindanao, proposals to revive the death penalty law and to lower the age of a child’s criminal liability from 15 to nine years old. These have created additional stress on our democratic systems and further strained efforts that seek accountability for extrajudicial killings.

Finally iDEFEND warns the government against withdrawing from the ICC, as Duterte had previously threatened. The crimes being investigated have been committed while we are still a State Party. Once grounds to continue have been determined, formal investigation may proceed with or without the country’s cooperation. It is for our country’s best interest to remain a State Party, cooperate fully, and if willing and able, to practice complementarity.