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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

ICC Prosecutor Bensouda seeks clearance to investigation the Situation in the Philippines

ICC Prosecutor Bensouda concludes preliminary examination; requests proceed with the investigation; DFA downplays ICC Prosecutor’s claims

MANILA – The International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has formally requested for judicial authorization to proceed with an investigation.

In a statement posted at the ICC website, Prosecutor Bensouda said as she said in December 2019, during the annual session of the Assembly of States Parties that before she ends her term as Prosecutor of the ICC, she hopes “to reach determination on all situations that have been under preliminary examination” during her tenure.

She added in her previous statement in December 2019, she indicated the possibility that several preliminary examinations would progress to the investigative stage.

She explained the situation in the Philippines has been under preliminary examination from February 8,2018 and during her time, her office “has been busy analyzing a large amount of publicly available information and information provided to us under Article 15 of the Statute.”

“On the basis of that work, I have determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the Government of the Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’ campaign. The Office does not take a position or any government internal policies and initiatives intended to address the production, distribution and consumption of psychoactive substances within the parameters of the law and due process of law, and in the present case, it is duly acting strictly in accordance with its specific and clearly defined mandate and obligations under the Statutes,” she said in her statement.

She added after a thorough preliminary examination process, the available information indicates that members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed between several thousands and tens of thousands of civilians during the period. She said her office has reviewed information related to allegations of torture and other inhumane acts, and related events as early as November 1, 2011, the beginning of the Court’s jurisdiction in the Philippines, “all of which we believe require investigation.”

Prosecutor Bensouda said despite the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute of the ICC which took effect on March 17,2019, as in the case of Burundi, “the Court retains jurisdiction over crimes that are alleged to have occurred on the territory of that State during the period when it was a State Party to the Rome Statute.”

“Moreover, these crimes are not subject to any statute of limitation,” she further said. As her terms ends soon, Prosecutor Bensouda said any authorized investigation in the Philippines will fall on her successor, Mr. Karim Khan.

Over at the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Government of the Philippines found it “deeply regrettable” the announcement made by the outgoing Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court seeking authorization to proceed with an investigation of the Situation in the Philippines.”

“The Philippine Government wishes to underscore that the Inter-Agency Review Panel headed by the Secretary of Justice was established to reinvestigate cases involving fatalities in the campaign against illegal drugs, and said Panel is continuing its work, and should be allowed to finish such work,” the DFA statement said.

The DFA said the ICC is a court of last resort as the State Parties to the Rome Statute envisioned a court with a complementary, not primary, jurisdiction for the prosecution of persons most responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern.

It further said the Rome Statute requires the Court and the Office of the Prosecutor to respect and defer to the primary criminal jurisdiction of concerned State Party, “while proceedings are ongoing in the latter.”

“The precipitate move of the Prosecutor is a blatant violation of the principle of complementarity, which is a bedrock principle of the Rome Statute,” the DFA statement concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

Outgoing ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. (ICC File Photo)

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