President Rodrigo Duterte (MNS Photo)

MANILA, Dec 15 (Mabuhay) –The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor to resume its investigation into the Duterte administration’s alleged crimes against humanity through its campaign against illegal drugs.

administration’s alleged crimes against humanity through its campaign against illegal drugs.

HRW Asia Director Brad Ad

HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said that the Philippines’ request  to defer to its government’s investigation of these alleged rights violations was a “delaying tactic” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s camp.

“The Philippine government’s request for the International Criminal Court prosecutor to defer its investigation while the authorities conduct their own is a transparent delaying tactic to protect officials responsible for mass killings,” Adams said.

“The ICC prosecutor should seek to resume its official investigation so that justice for victims isn’t further delayed,” he added.

Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya sent a letter to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan dated November 10, noting that the Philippine government had been looking into the alleged abuses in the course of the campaign.

He cited the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) referral to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of 52 cases where the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service found administrative liability on the part of the concerned personnel.

He said that the DOJ is also looking into more than 300 cases that involve “concluded and ongoing preliminary investigations into deaths of a similar nature.”

Days after, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor temporarily suspended the investigation into the matter as it “assesses the scope and effect of the deferral request.”

HRW however noted that the Duterte administration has not responded to its November 10 letter seeking details about the government’s claim that it was investigating police involvement in the killings.

In this letter, HRW said they asked whether the police or the DOJ considered investigating the “thousands of cases that were not covered by the police’s Internal Affairs Service’s investigation, whose preliminary findings were the basis for the DOJ’s review.”

In September, the ICC opened the investigation on the request of then-prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s to probe crimes “allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign.”

Duterte has then insisted that he would only face a Philippine court amid the ICC probe and if he should be imprisoned for the killings, it should be in Philippine jails.

“The Duterte administration has never been serious about the ICC’s accountability process, evident most recently in its wholly unwarranted request for a deferral of the investigation,” Adams said.

“In the meantime, the ‘drug war’ killings go on, the victims’ families continue to grieve, and those responsible remain free,” he added.

Malacañang earlier said it would be difficult for the ICC to “uncover the truth” as it insisted that the Philippine government will not cooperate in the investigation owing to the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, in 2019.

Government critics claim the number of deaths due to the drug war have reached 20,000 but police there were only at least 6,000. (MNS)

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