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ICC prosecutor vows to uncover truth in Duterte ‘war on drugs’

Kristine Joy Patag – Philstar.com, October 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — In the face of Philippine government officials insisting on non-cooperation with international probers, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan vowed to uncover the truth in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs.”

In a statement late Thursday night (Manila time), Khan issued a statement weeks after the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber approved his office’s request to launch an investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity in the Philippines.

“My investigation will seek to uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability. We will focus our efforts on ensuring a successful, independent and impartial investigation,” Khan said.

Khan also asserted that, as affirmed by the Pre-Trial Chamber, his office’s investigation will cover alleged crimes in the country from November 2011 to March 2019, when the Philippines’ withdrawal took effect.

The probe will also cover alleged killings in Davao City between 2011 and 2016, when he was in the local government of the southern Philippine city. 

The Duterte government has been adamant about insisting that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the country. Officials have also maintained that they will not cooperate with international probers.

But Khan said that his office remains” willing to constructively engage with national authorities in accordance with the principle of complementarity and our obligations under the Statute,”

The ICC prosecutor also said he will count on the cooperation of States Parties, civil society and other partners so it may give justice to victims and affected communities.

Khan added: “I equally look forward to exploring opportunities for greater engagement and dialogue between my Office and the Asia-Pacific region.”

RELATED: After announcing retirement from politics, Duterte says he will prepare defense for ICC probe

Difficulties in investigation

Retired ICC Judge Raul Pangalangan earlier said that the international tribunal can employ alternative ways to gather evidence in its investigation.

Social media posts may be used, and the ICC may also fly witnesses to The Hague. Online mechanisms can be used too if the investigator cannot physically come to the country.

Even before the PTC approved the request of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor for a full investigation, witnesses as well as kin of “drug war” victims have also been submitting their testimonies to the tribunal.

The OTP, in what has been called former Prosecutor Fatou Bensounda’s valedictory, noted that the office is “[a]ware of the complex operational challenges” that they will face if their request for the probe is approved.

“[W]e have also been taking a number of measures to collect and preserve evidence, in anticipation of a possible investigation,” she added.

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