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HRW exec: Roque’s speech at ICC assembly ‘grotesquely deceptive’

An official of the Human Rights Watch on Friday described as "grotesquely deceptive" Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s speech before the International Criminal Court, presenting the Duterte administration's supposed drive to investigate drug-related killings.

HRW associate director for International Justice Program Param-Preet Singh belied Roque's  claims that the administration is investigating alleged abuses by state authorities in the conduct of anti-illegal drugs operations.

"The government has made no genuine efforts to seek accountability for drug war abuses. There have been no successful prosecutions or convictions of police implicated in summary killings despite compelling evidence of such abuses," Singh said in statement released on Thursday (Eastern Standard Time).

Last Monday, Roque asked the 16th Assembly of state-parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to respect the country's proceedings on terrorism and illegal drugs, even as he  warned against attempts to use the tribunal for the advancement of political interests. 

Singh said that Roque also announced that the Philippines will “bring to bear our national criminal justice system upon those who violate our laws.”

Roque raised the possibility of the Philippines leaving the ICC if the court violates the principle of complementarity – if it supersedes the jurisdiction of local courts.

Likewise, Roque reiterated this point at the general debate, stressing that the ICC is a court of last resort. 

Singh agreed with the idea that the ICC is a court of last resort "when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so."

But she opposed Roque's assertion that the Duterte administration is willing to investigate drug-related deaths, saying that this is contrary to the President's public statements.

"Duterte publicly vowed to pardon, reinstate, and promote officers convicted of extrajudicial killings. [He] and his supporters have systematically vilified, harassed, and sought to intimidate institutions and individuals – including UN officials – who have sought accountability for the killings," Singh said.

Last April, Jude Sabio, the lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, filed a complaint against Duterte and senior officials before the ICC, accusing them of crimes against humanity amid the war on drugs.

The office of the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda confirmed that it received the complaint. But Singh said she has yet to learn when the ICC will act on the complaint.

Nonetheless, she said that the investigation launched by the UN on the war on drugs would at least help expose possible crimes against humanity and bring justice to the anti-narcotic campaign's victims.

"In the meantime, a UN-led international probe of drug war killings could help expose the extent of the abuses and possible targets of a criminal investigation, including possible crimes against humanity," Singh said.

"Duterte’s thousands of victims deserve more than empty platitudes in diplomatic circles. They deserve justice," she added. —Joseph Tristan Roxas/LBG, GMA News