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ICC asks Duterte gov’t to prove it’s really probing drug deaths

PHILIPPINE STAR/ JOVEN CAGANDE

THE INTERNATIONAL Criminal Court’s (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor on Tuesday said it would ask the Philippine government to provide proof that it had investigated its war on drugs that has killed thousands, days after the tribunal suspended an initial probe.

The Philippines must submit concrete proof that it is taking steps to hold human rights violators in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign accountable, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement.

“The Office of the Prosecutor will request that such information be provided promptly, as envisaged by Article 18 of the Rome Statute and as necessary to ensure that there is no impunity for Rome Statute crimes,” he said.

The office suspended at the weekend its investigation of alleged crimes against humanity committed in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.

The ICC, which investigates and tries people charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, was also set to probe vigilante-style killings in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was still its vice mayor and mayor.

Mr. Khan said the government should cite the steps it is taking to find out who is to blame for drug-related killings. Any local proceedings against human rights violators should be credible, he added.

He said his office would continue to analyze information it has or may continue to receive while the probe is suspended.

He would also assess the need to seek permission from the ICC’s pre-trial chamber to preserve evidence. He also vowed to pay close attention to the security and safety of victims and witnesses.

Filipino lawyers have been calling on the Hague-based tribunal to resume its probe of Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, saying the Philippine Justice department was only looking into 52 deaths out of the tens of thousands killed.

The government has taken an increasingly large role in targeting civilians, “no longer trying to create distance by ‘outsourcing’ the majority of violence to vigilantes,” US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project said in a report published on Nov. 18.

After analyzing data and information from at least 40 sources, the group said in a report the Philippine government had been “undercounting” civilian deaths in the drug war.

At least 1,100 fatalities in the bloody campaign have not been counted by the government. “We now estimate at least 7,742 civilians have been killed in the drug war since 2016.”

The state had not counted at least 1,100 deaths, the group said. “We now estimate at least 7,742 civilians have been killed in the drug war since 2016.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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