By Roy Mabasa
The International Criminal Court (ICC) will continue to record allegations of crimes in the Philippines’ war on drugs months before the country’s withdrawal from the international body takes effect.
This statement was contained in a report released on Wednesday by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that provided an overview of her preliminary examination on alleged extra-judicial killings in the Philippines under President Duterte’s war on drugs.
Shortly after Bensouda opened examinations of allegations of drug-related killings in February this year, Duterte announced that the Philippines is withdrawing from the ICC.
On March 17, 2018, the Philippine government deposited a written notification of withdrawal from the Statute with the United Nations Secretary-General. The Philippines’ withdrawal, however, will only become effective one year after the notification.
In the report, Bensouda maintained that the ICC retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that have occurred in the Philippines during the period when it was a State Party to the Statute.
The ICC’s preliminary examination focused on crimes allegedly committed in the Philippines since July 1, 2016, in the context of the so-called “war on drugs” campaign.
Out of the over 12,000 persons allegedly killed in the anti-drug campaign, over 4,800 of these were committed in acknowledged anti-drug police operations. The report also noted that thousands of killings were also reportedly carried out by unknown assailants, some in the context of fights between or within gangs.
“The Office is continuing its assessment of the information available in order to reach a determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that the alleged crimes fall within the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court,” the ICC prosecutor said in the report.
It added that its ongoing assessment is strictly guided by the requirements of the Statute and being conducted “to reaching conclusions within a reasonable time frame.”
As its next steps, the ICC Prosecutor’s Office said it will continue to engage with a variety of reliable sources and relevant stakeholders related to the situation in the Philippines.
“Any alleged crimes occurring in the future in the context of the same situation could also be included in the Office’s analysis. Accordingly, the Office will also continue to record allegations of crimes committed in the Philippines to the extent that they may fall within the jurisdiction of the Court,” it said.