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ICC assistant to counsel ‘apprehensive but hopeful’ on ICC decision

ICC assistant to counsel ‘apprehensive but hopeful’ on ICC decision

Lawyer Kristina Conti on Tuesday said she is both apprehensive and hopeful amid the looming decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber on the Philippine government’s appeal against the resumption of the probe into the controversial war on drugs.

Conti is the ICC assistant to counsel and the secretary-general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers-National Capital Region, which has asked the ICC to look into the drug war.

“Apprehensive, but at the same time, hopeful for this afternoon,” Conti told CNN Philippines in an interview.

The ICC Appeals Chamber will announce in open court at 4 p.m. on Tuesday (Manila time) its decision on the government’s plea against the continuation of the ICC prosecutor’s probe on the drug war.

According to Conti, the issue on appeal is Article 18, which deals with the deferral of an investigation because of an ongoing domestic probe.

However, she said the government in its appeal “threw in everything but the kitchen sink” and made arguments on the jurisdiction of the ICC, which is under Article 19.

“They already discussed the issues of jurisdiction and visibility, that we’re no longer part of the ICC and all other matters that it addressed before. Before it was a mishmash of arguments but now they structured it in such a way that they oppose the investigation in all its entirety,” Conti said.

“If the Appeals Chamber also takes these arguments by the Philippines into consideration, then we’re looking at a decision that deals with all those issues in its entirety, including jurisdiction, including admissibility, just so to let these matters rest,” she also said later in the interview.

When asked why the government used those arguments, Conti said this was to “stave off the investigation” of the ICC.

Philippine officials, including President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., have said the government will not cooperate with the ICC, citing the international body's lack of jurisdiction.

Under the drug war, at least 6,200 suspects were killed in police operations based on government records. Human rights groups, however, claimed the actual death toll could be from 12,000 to 30,000.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the Hague-based tribunal in 2019 after it began a preliminary probe into his drug war, followed by the launch of a formal inquiry later that year.

In an interview with reporters on Monday, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the Philippine government will not comply if the ICC issues a warrant of arrest against some individuals over killings attributed to the war on drugs.

When sought for comment, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra earlier said that the ICC prosecutor could indict certain individuals if there is sufficient evidence.

Remulla, however, said the indictment would only be “political” and that the ICC should pass on the evidence to the Philippine government if they want certain individuals held accountable. —KBK, GMA Integrated News