The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has urged the government to participate in the investigation that seeks to uncover the truth in cases of reported human rights violations, particularly deaths in illegal drugs operations, after the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided to seek authority to start the probe.
“There is a need for the present administration to demonstrate genuine openness, transparency, and cooperation in its engagement with human rights investigation and accountability mechanisms, including that of the United Nations’ (UN) system, in improving the human rights situation in the country,” CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.
Published reports stated that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has applied for authorization with the international court’s Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) to start an investigation in the Philippines.
Investigation was sought by Bensouda “in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court (ICC) allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the War on Drugs campaign, as well as any other crimes which are sufficiently linked to these events.”
Bensouda’s request has to be approved by the ICC’s PTC before a probe can be started.
The CHR said that in 2020, Bensouda reported that there is “reasonable basis to believe” that crimes against humanity were committed by law enforcement officials in the Philippines as they carried out the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
These acts referred to by Bensouda include murder, torture, and infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane acts, De Guia said.
The CHR noted that while the Philippines withdrew from the Roman Statute effective March 17, 2019, the ICC still retains jurisdiction over the Philippine territory during the period it was a State Party from Nov. 1, 2011 up to March 16, 2019.
De Guia, a lawyer, said that the CHR is pleased that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has recently decided to open its case records to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for review of deaths linked to the government’s drug campaign.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) had also turned over to the DOJ records of its more than 100 illegal drugs operations.
She said the turning over of the records to the DOJ is a “step towards the right direction” for the government to show transparency and hold perpetrators to account for violating human rights.
“At the same time, CHR looks forward to more meaningful engagements in demonstrating the rule of law in the country, including being able to have access to cases of said killings in the country for our own independent probe,” she also said.