PH hires foreign lawyer to assist in ICC appeal vs. drug war probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — The Philippines has hired an international lawyer to help the country in its appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reverse its decision to resume the probe into the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.

“We engaged Ms. Sarah Bafadhel, she is a British barrister but she has her chambers in London, but she is practicing at the ICC at The Hague, the Netherlands,” Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Wednesday. 

Guevarra said Bafadhel, whose expertise is in the field of international criminal law, was chosen by the government from a list provided by the Philippine Embassy at The Hague.

The foreign counsel’s training and experience made her qualified to assist Manila when it comes to procedural issues, he added.

According to Chambers and Partners, which ranks the most outstanding law firms and lawyers in over 180 jurisdictions, Bafadhel was first in the field of international criminal law for eight consecutive years.

One of her notable cases was representing Assad Hassan Sabra, who was acquitted from all charges filed against him regarding the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon that killed former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, and 21 others.

He was accused of conspiracy aimed at committing a terrorist act, and being an accomplice to the felony of intentional homicide with premeditation by using explosive materials, among others.

Guevarra clarified that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) did not tap Bafadhel to defend the previous administration, or former President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The OSG is not defending any specific person," Guevarra emphasized. "The OSG is representing the Republic of the Philippines, we are representing the state.”

He noted that what the government is defending in this case is the country’s legal and judicial system “because it has the primary responsibility to deal with crimes that were committed in our own territory.”

The assistance of foreign experts is needed since the venue is the ICC and not a local court, Guevarra added.

“Since it’s the state, which is the client or the principal of the OSG, then necessarily, the state will also have to share in the cost of the legal service being extended to us,” Guevarra explained.

The Philippines filed its appeal to the ICC Appeals Chamber last week. 

Guevarra has proposed forming an independent body that will look into the killings linked to the drug war. 

He said he believes this will expedite the process since this will complement the existing probe being conducted by local authorities.