The International Criminal Court (ICC) has suspended investigations into suspected human rights violations during the so-called “drug war” led by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in which thousands of people were killed.
In September, the court in The Hague, the Netherlands, approved a formal investigation into the crackdown, a move that was welcomed by the families of the victims and human rights organizations.
Activists accused the authorities of carrying out summary executions, killing innocent people, including dozens of children. The police denied the allegations, saying that the suspect claimed to be in self-defense when resisting arrest.
According to documents released on Friday, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan wrote that the Philippines had filed an extension request through its ambassador to the Netherlands on November 10.
“The prosecution temporarily suspended investigation activities while assessing the scope and impact of the extension request,” Khan said.
He added: “The prosecution will request more information from the Philippines in accordance with Article 53 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence in the next few days.”
“This additional information is necessary for the prosecutor to assess the scope and impact of the extension request.”
In the letter, Ambassador Eduardo Malaya asked the International Criminal Court to postpone the trial, stating that his country is “knowing about ensuring the successful prosecution of cases that have been or may be submitted to the court to prevent the Philippine National Police and others from making mistakes. Jurisdiction.” .
Malaya cited the domestic review of 52 drug raids conducted between 2016 and 2021, which marked “(The Ministry of Justice) has begun reviewing more than 6,000 administrative cases” awaiting internal police investigations.
A United Nations report last year found that thousands of people were killed in the campaign.
According to the latest data released by the Philippine government in June, as of April 2021, at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers have been killed in police encounters. However, human rights organizations and activists say that this number could be as high as 30,000.
A group of Philippine lawyers called on the International Court of Justice not to eliminate the glimmer of hope from the families of victims of the drug war.
The National People’s Lawyers Union, which represents the families of some victims, said in a statement: “We ask the International Criminal Court not to let ourselves be swayed by the claims made by the Duterte administration.”
It said that the Philippines’ judicial system is “extremely slow and will not help most of the poor and unrepresented victims”.
Centerlaw, the legal group that petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the drug war “unconstitutional”, said the details of the domestic investigation shared by Malaya showed its weaknesses.
“Of the estimated 30,000 victims, only 52 cases have been reviewed. This fact shows that the government’s practice of pretending to comply with international justice is minimal,” the Philippine Inquirer quoted Centerlaw as saying.
Duterte, who was in the final months of his six-year term, withdrew the Philippines from the International Criminal Court in 2018 and has repeatedly stated that his government will not cooperate with any investigation. The court has the power to investigate crimes committed during the country’s membership and before 2019.
Salvador Panello, Duterte’s chief legal counsel, told Reuters on Saturday: “There is no contradiction with the suspension of operations.” But he did not elaborate.
Earlier this month, the outgoing 76-year-old leader told the court to “go to death” and that he would not succumb to the court’s jurisdiction. Officials also stated that investigators of the International Criminal Court will not be allowed to enter the country to conduct investigations.
In a speech to the United Nations in September, the president defended his policy and stated that those who were found to “behave outside the scope of Philippine law” will be held accountable.
In its nearly two years of existence, the International Criminal Court has convicted five men as war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are all Africans from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Uganda.
The well-known Philippine human rights activist Carlos Conde said that Duterte tried to buy time and “claimed to be complementary to the International Criminal Court.”
“We believe @IntlCrimCourt sees its essence: a trick,” he wrote on Twitter after announcing the delay.