OUTGOING International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Monday, June 14, 2021, that she has found basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed in the Philippines.
In a statement, Bensouda said the information that they gathered during their preliminary examination indicated that “members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians” from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019 under the government’s war on drugs.
Bensouda said she filed on May 24, 2021 a request for judicial authorization to open an investigation into the killings.
On Monday, June 14, Bensouda said she filed a public redacted version of the request, “in the interests of transparency and also to provide notice to the victims as foreseen in rule 50(1) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Court.”
Despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the ICC effective March 17, 2019, Bensouda said the court retains jurisdiction over crimes that were alleged to have occurred while the Philippines was still a State Party to the Rome Statute.
“Moreover, these crimes are not subject to any statute of limitation,” Bensouda said.
Since her term as prosecutor will end shortly, an authorized investigation into the Philippines will be conducted by her successor Karim Khan.
Bensouda acknowledged the operational challenges arising from the continuing pandemic, the severe limitations on the ICC's resources, and the office's current heavy work commitments.
“As I stated many times before, the Court today stands at a cross-roads in several concurrent situations, where the basis to proceed is legally and factually clear, but the operational means to do so are severely lacking,” she said, citing the need to discuss the office’s need for resources.
Read: Fatou Bensouda's statement
The preliminary examination into the Philippine situation started on February 8, 2018, with the ICC analyzing publicly available information and information provided to it under Article 15 of the Rome 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 July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 in the context of the Government of Philippines ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” she stated.
“Following 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 thousand and tens of thousands of civilians during that time,” she added.
Bensouda said she also believed that there is a need to investigate allegations of torture and other inhumane acts, and related events as far back as November 1, 2011, when the ICC acquired jurisdiction in the Philippines.
To prepare for an investigation, Bensouda said her office has been collecting and preserving evidence.
“These steps have been taken within the scope of the statutory powers entrusted to the prosecutor by the Rome Statute at the preliminary examination stage, and where appropriate, we have sought and obtained judicial authorization to do so,” she said.
“Indeed, in recent years, Pre-Trial Chambers of the Court have increasingly stressed the importance of utilizing the full range of powers that may be available to the Court prior to the initiation of an investigation to preserve evidence and protect persons who may be at risk. We have acted diligently in conformity with this judicial guidance,” she added. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)