ICC to Hold Investigation into the Crimes in Philippines

Mr Karim Asad Ahmad Khan QC taking his solemn oath as ICC Prosecutor on June 16, 2021. Photo: ICC-CPI
Mr Karim Asad Ahmad Khan QC taking his solemn oath as ICC Prosecutor on June 16, 2021. Photo: ICC-CPI (file photo)

The investigation is supposed to cover crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines.

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim A. A. Khan QC, issued a statement on October 7, following judicial authorisation to commence an investigation into the Situation in the Republic of the Philippines.

On 15 September 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber I had authorised the Prosecutor’s Office to commence the investigation. The Prosecution had sought authorisation to commence an investigation in relation to crimes within the ICC jurisdiction.

The investigation is supposed to cover crimes 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 falling within the jurisdiction of the Court, which are sufficiently linked to these events. 

The Chamber emphasised that, “based on the facts as they emerge at the present stage and subject to proper investigation and further analysis, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation.”

In their ruling, the Judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I accepted that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder appears to have been committed. The Judges also noted, as Prosecutor’s Office did in its Request, reports of torture and inhumane acts, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearance, and sexual violence. The Judges authorised the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate such other crimes, as long as they remain within the parameters of the authorised investigation.

While the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute took effect on 17 March 2019, the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed Prosecutor’s Office’s position that the Court retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that occurred on the territory of the Philippines while it was a State Party, from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019.

“The investigation will seek to uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability. We will focus our efforts on ensuring a successful, independent and impartial investigation. In doing so, we aim to bring justice to the victims and affected communities, and count on the support and cooperation of States Parties, civil society and other partners,” Prosecutor Khan said in his statement.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. 

Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC’s jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali; Georgia; Burundi; Bangladesh/Myanmar; Afghanistan (pending judicial authorization to resume investigation following initial article 18 deferral request); Palestine and the Philippines. 

The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; Venezuela I and Venezuela II, and has completed its preliminary examinations of the situations in Ukraine and Nigeria, which are pending requests to seek authorisation to proceed to investigation.

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Rakesh Raman