The International Criminal Court on Thursday assured the Philippines it would work with “full independence” in conducting a preliminary examination on the crimes allegedly committed by the Duterte administration in its war on drugs.
“Following a careful, independent and impartial review of a number of communications and reports documenting alleged crimes potentially falling within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”), I have decided to open a preliminary examination into each situation,” ICC prosecutor Fatuous Bensouda said in a statement.
Bensouda said the “preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines will analyze crimes allegedly committed in this State Party since at least 1 July 2016, in the context of the “war on drugs” campaign launched by the Government of the Philippines.”
“Specifically, it has been alleged that since 1 July 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing,” she said.
“While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extra-judicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations,” she added.
Under the Rome Statute, Bensouda said the “national jurisdictions have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute those responsible for international crimes.”
“I emphasize that a preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the Rome Statute. Specifically, under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, I, as Prosecutor, must consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice in making this determination,” she said.
In conformity with the complementarity principle, which is a cornerstone of the Rome Statute legal system, and within the framework of each preliminary examination, Bensouda said her “Office will be engaging with the national authorities concerned with a view to discussing and assessing any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level.”
“In the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate, my Office will also give consideration to all submissions and views conveyed to it during the course of each preliminary examination, strictly guided by the requirements of the Rome Statute,” she said.
She said there are no statutory timelines on the length of a preliminary examination.
“Depending on the facts and circumstances of each situation, I will decide whether to initiate an investigation, subject to judicial review as appropriate; continue to collect information to establish a sufficient factual and legal basis to render a determination; or decline to initiate an investigation if there is no reasonable basis to proceed,” she said.
Bensouda said he would do the preliminary examination with “impartiality.”
“I reiterate that my Office undertakes this work with full independence and impartiality in accordance with its mandate and the applicable legal instruments of the Court,” she said.
“As we do, we hope to count on the full engagement of the relevant national authorities in the Philippines and Venezuela,” she added.
The ICC, she said, “would have jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if committed on the respective territories of the Philippines and Venezuela or by their respective nationals since the date when the Statute entered into force in each State, namely since 1 November 2011 in the case of Philippines, and since 1 July 2002, in Venezuela.”
The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.