Philippines asks ICC to suspend probe of deadly drug war under Duterte 

THE GOVERNMENT of Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber to suspend its probe of his predecessor’s deadly drug war, saying it does not have jurisdiction over it. 

In a 51-page plea dated March 13, and made public on Tuesday, the Office of the Solicitor General said the ICC prosecutor was not authorized to resume the probe. 

“The ICC prosecution’s activities in furtherance of its investigations would lack any legal foundation and encroach on the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines,” state lawyers including Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra said, according to a copy of the plea. 

“The court cannot overstretch its jurisdiction and it cannot unreasonably and unnecessarily exert its dominance over a state’s primary right to investigate and prosecute serious crimes.” 

The ICC pre-trial chamber in January reopened its investigation into killings and so-called crimes against humanity under ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign. 

The Hague-based tribunal said it was not satisfied with Philippine efforts to probe the human rights abuses during the period. 

ICC prosecutor Ahmad A. Khan on Feb. 16 told the international court the Philippines had not raised new arguments to justify halting the probe. 

But state lawyers said the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber made a mistake when it ruled that the court had jurisdiction over the Philippines, noting that the country had withdrawn its membership from the tribunal in 2018. 

“It would be both illogical and contrary to the court’s functioning if the court could indefinitely exercise jurisdiction… in relation to a former state party and in the absence of any legal basis for continued cooperation,” the solicitor general said. 

Mr. Marcos has said the court does not have jurisdiction over the Philippines, adding the country’s courts could punish erring officials. He said the Philippines would not rejoin the ICC. 

European Union lawmakers who came to the Philippines last month urged the Philippine government to rejoin the ICC to show its commitment to human rights. 

Philippine police arrested 8,183 drug suspects in 6,044 illegal drug operations from the start of the year to Feb. 11, national police chief General Rodolfo S. Azurin, Jr. said on Feb. 13.  

Human rights abuses continued under the first six months of the Marcos government, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Jan. 12. 

The Philippine government estimates that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations. Human rights groups say as many as 30,000 suspects died. 

“The reality is, the Philippine government has withdrawn from the Rome Statute and the court does not have jurisdiction over the situation,” government lawyers said, citing the treaty that created the ICC.  

“However, even with this in mind, the Philippine Government remains committed to the goals of the court and actively engaged with the prosecution and the court.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez