The Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) welcomes the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor’s request for authorization to open a formal investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity committed in the Philippines concerning the Duterte administration’s violent and inhumane war on drugs.
In a document released yesterday, June 14, outgoing Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said: “…the Prosecution requests the Chamber to authorize the commencement of an investigation into the situation in the Philippines, in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the War on Drugs campaign, as well as any other crimes which are sufficiently linked to these events.” She further stated that these “appear to have been committed pursuant to an official State policy of the Philippine government.”
Such a move is not only a significant development in the direction towards justice for victims of killings whose cases have not been properly investigated under the current war on drugs, but also serves as a major indictment of President Duterte and his administration’s policies and conduct concerning the said campaign. Thousands have fallen victim to extrajudicial killings amidst the backdrop of a chilling culture of impunity, strengthened by the President’s public and repeated support of his bloody drug war.
We recognize though that the request of the ICC Prosecutor is just a step towards accountability that has yet to be approved by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC in order to allow the Prosecutor to investigate crimes against humanity. We are fully cognizant that it is still a long way towards the attainment of justice for victims of these serious atrocities.
We are also aware of efforts by certain sectors of the Philippine government to start investigating a number of cases falling under the drug war. There are also initiatives, together with the international community led by the Office of the High Commission on Human Rights, to help the government address the challenges of bringing justice to human rights victims. We are cognizant that all of these are indeed steps towards the right direction. But we are also cognizant that all of these have been products of an injustice, in the first place, that necessitated all these actions to come together.
The AHRC joins everyone in the quest for justice to hold accountable perpetrators of atrocious crime and human rights violations. And we strongly support the move to have complementary efforts to our domestic system in seeking justice.