The International Criminal Court (ICC) has suspended its investigation into the killings linked to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics crackdown following a deferral request from the Philippine government.
“The prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the deferral request,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan wrote in a court notification dated November 18.
“The Prosecution will, however, continue its analysis of information already in its possession as well as of any new information it may receive from third parties, and actively assess the need for applications to the pre-trial chamber for authority to conduct necessary investigative steps for the preservation of evidence under Article 18(6) of the Statute,” he added.
Based on court documents released by the ICC, Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya requested the deferral on November 10, in which he said that the administration was already looking into the alleged crimes against humanity committed during the drug war.
Malaya also said that the Philippine government “has undertaken, and continues to undertake, thorough investigations of all reported deaths during anti-narcotic operations in the country.”
In September, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber found a “reasonable basis” to proceed with a full investigation into Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs.
The decision was signed by Presiding Judge Péter Kovács, Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou, and Judge María del Socorro Flores Liera.
“On the basis of the above, the Chamber concludes that there is a reasonable basis for the Prosecutor to proceed with an investigation, in the sense that the crime against humanity of murder appears to have been committed, and that potential case(s) arising from such investigation appear to fall within the Court’s jurisdiction,” the judges said.
For its part, Malacañang welcomed the ICC’s decision to suspend its drug war probe.
Acting Presidential Spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Saturday, Nov. 21, maintained that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippine government.
“This, however, does not preclude the government from communicating with the ICC, and it should be stressed that the government’s communication to the ICC was conditioned on the fact that in making that communication the Philippine government was not waiving its position regarding the ICC’s lack of jurisdiction,” he said.
“In any event, we welcome the judiciousness of the new ICC prosecutor, who has deemed it fit to give the matter a fresh look and we trust that the matter will be resolved in favor of the exoneration of our government and the recognition of the vibrancy of our justice system,” he added.
Meanwhile, former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the ICC’s decision is proof that the Philippine institutions are “working.”
“This order is a recognition that the Philippine institutions are working and that the ICC will not exercise original jurisdiction precisely because sovereignty and jurisdiction provides that it is Philippine authorities that must investigate, punish, and prosecute these alleged instances of illegal killings in connection with the drug war,” he said Sunday, Nov. 21.