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ICC prosecutor received claims of rape, abuses in Duterte’s war on drugs

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is looking to finish in 2020 its preliminary examination of the allegations against President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

This developed as the ICC prosecutor said that office had received allegations that law enforcers raped women with ties to drug suspects.

In its Report on Preliminary Examination Activities for 2019 dated December 5, the office also cited reports of abuses being committed against drug suspects before getting killed "by state actors and other uidentified assailants."

"During the reporting period, the Office significantly advanced its assessment of whether there is a reasonable basis to proceedunder article 15(3)of the Statute," the report said.

"During 2020, the Office will aim to finalize the preliminary examination in order to enable the prosecutor to reach a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the Philippines," it added.

GMA News Online has reached out to the Philippine National Police for comment.

ICC investigators barred

The Philippines on March 17, 2018 informed the United Nations that it was withdrawing from the Rome Statute on the ICC. The withdrawal took effect a year later.

The ICC, however, retained jurisdiction over the complaints filed against the government under Duterte.

"Furthermore, the exercise of the court's jurisdiction (i.e. the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed up to and including March 16, 2019) is not subject to any time limit," the prosecutor's report said.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said ICC personnel could visit the Philippines as tourists but warned that they would be deported if they would proceed with the investigation on the war on drugs.

“I’ll smile at them and tell them nicely ‘you can’t do it here. If you persist you will be deported. You will be violating [our sovereignty],’” Panelo said.

“The Immigration officials have the discretion to deny you entry if they feel na ang gagawin mo rito eh either labag sa batas o manggugulo ka lang dito,” he added.

‘Greatest responsibility’

Despite the Duterte administration's stance, the report said the ICC prosecutor had looked into the information available to determine whether  the  alleged  conduct  of  state  actors  and other  individuals, such  as vigilantes,  "amounted to  the  crimes  against  humanity  of  murder,  torture,  other inhumane acts or rape." 

"Such analysis was conducted with a view to identifying potential  cases likely  to arise  from  any  potential investigation into  the  situation and  the  persons  or  groups  of  persons  who  may  bear  the  greatest  responsibility for the identified alleged crimes," the report said.

In  addition  to  killings,  the prosecutor said the office had received information on some  individuals  being subjected to "serious ill-treatment and abuses prior to being killed by state actors and  other  unidentified  assailants,  such  as  after  being  arrested  or  abducted  and while  being  held  in  custody  prior  their  deaths." 

"It  has  also  been  alleged  that  in several  incidents,  relatives  (such  as  spouses,  parents  or  children)  of  the  victims witnessed  the  killings,  thereby  sustaining  serious  mental  suffering," the report read.

"Further,  it has  been reported  that  in  at  least  a  few  incidents,  members  of  law enforcement raped   women   who   were   apparently   targeted   because   of   their   personal relationships to individuals alleged to have been involved in drug activities," it added.

Oplan Tokhang

The report said majority  of  the  victims  had been  from  poor communities especially those within urban areas, such as in locations within the  Metro  Manila,  Central  Luzon,Central  Visayas,  and  Calabarzon  regions, among  others.

"In  addition,  it  has  been  reported  that  some  public  officials, including civil  servants, politicians, mayors, deputy mayors and barangay-level officials,  and  current  and  former  members  of  law  enforcement  were  allegedly killed because of their purported links to the illegal drug trade," the report said.

"According to the information  available,  many  of  the  persons  targeted  overall  by  the  alleged  acts had  been  included  on  drug  watch  lists  compiled  by  national  and/or  local authorities,   and   some   of   those   targeted   also   included   persons   who   had previously ‘surrendered’ to  the  police  in  connection  to  Oplan  Tokhang," it added.

Threats vs. rights defender

The report said the prosecutor had also  been  following  with  concern  reports  of  threats  and  other measures apparently taken against human rights defenders, including those who have  criticized  the  WoD  campaign. 

"The  Office  will  continue  to  closely monitor such reports, as well as other relevant developments in the Philippines," it said.

Duterte recently criticized opposition leader Vice President Leni Robredo, when she was still a co-chair of the Inter-Agency Council on Anti-Illegal Drugs, for supposedly inviting an ICC prosecutor into the country.

Robredo denied the allegation but was eventually sacked just 19 days after her appointment. 

One of the reasons given for her termination from the job was her meeting with United States and United Nations representatives as regards the war on drugs.  —NB, GMA News