THE chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warning to the Philippine government over alleged extrajudicial killings, saying officials’ incitement of mass killings could be prosecuted before the court in The Hague.
Malacañang reacted swiftly to the statement, saying the alleged extrajudicial killings linked to the war against drugs were not state-sanctioned, and that President Rodrigo Duterte would face any inquiry.
Duterte launched a typically defiant counter-attack on Friday, defending his rhetoric and the crime war that is seeing more that 1,000 people killed every month.
“There is nothing wrong in threatening criminals to death. By that statement alone: ‘You criminals, I will kill you. Do not fool around.’ It is a perfect statement,” Duterte said.
Describing his critics as “fools”, Duterte reiterated his position he was not breaking any domestic laws by threatening to kill criminals and pledged the crime war would continue until there were no more illegal drugs in society.
“I will not stop. Be sure of it, you can cast it in whatever stone. I will not stop until the last pusher, until the last drug lord is taken away,” he said.
Since Duterte took office, police have killed 1,578 people and 2,151 have died in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures released Friday. The total of 3,729 is 368 more than the previous police update released last week.
Malacañang this week invited UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to investigate the killings.
But Duterte vowed on Thursday to “humiliate” her and any other critics if they dared to come to the Philippines and investigate.
Polls show Filipinos overwhelmingly support Duterte’s war on crime.
In a statement on the court’s website, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a lawyer from Gambia, said her office was “aware of worrying reported extrajudicial killings of alleged drug dealers and users in the Philippines, which may have led to over 3,000 deaths in the past three months.”
“I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements of high officials of the Republic of the Philippines seem to condone such killings and further seem to encourage State forces and civilians alike to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force,” she said, without naming these officials.
“Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the Court,” she added.
Party to ICC
Bensouda reminded the government that the Philippines is a state party to the ICC “and as such, the Court has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on the territory or by nationals of the Philippines since 1 November 2011, the date when the Statute entered into force in the Philippines.”
“Extrajudicial killings may fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC if they are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to a State policy to commit such an attack,” she explained.
Bensouda said her office, in accordance with the Rome Statute, would closely follow developments in the Philippines and “record any instance of incitement or resort to violence with a view to assessing whether a preliminary examination into the situation of the Philippines needs to be opened.”
The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said it conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecution of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
It said it had conducted investigations in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic; Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali and Georgia.
It is also conducting preliminary examinations related to incidents in Afghanistan; Burundi; the registered vessels of Comoros, Greece and Cambodia; Colombia; Gabon; Guinea; Iraq and the United Kingdom; Palestine; Nigeria and Ukraine.
Cleared by Senate panel
Duterte has repeatedly denied condoning extrajudicial killings, saying he had only instructed police to kill drug suspects in self-defense.
Malacañang however appeared to soften its stance this week and said police should only shoot suspects to disable them.
Andanar pointed out that Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights who conducted a probe on extrajudicial killings, had been quoted as saying “there is no proof that the killings were state-sponsored.”
“In any case, the President has articulated that he is willing to submit himself to an investigation before any body,” he added.
Duterte has earned criticism from human rights advocates and the international community following the surge in killings of individuals with drug links.
Despite this, the President maintains that his fight against drugs will be “relentless” until the drug trade is wiped out.
In retaliation, Duterte has launched tirades against the US, the EU and the UN, daring US President Barack Obama and UN chief Ban Ki-moon to come over to Manila and investigate him.