‘They will not escape accountability’: Amnesty International welcomes ICC drug war probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16)— Human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the move of the International Criminal Court’s pre-trial chamber to greenlight the investigation on the Duterte’s administration’s anti-drug campaign.

In a statement on Thursday, Secretary General Agnes Callamard said the chamber’s decision “sends a clear message to the perpetrators and architects of these crimes that they will not escape accountability.”

“No one is above the law,” Callamard said. “Duterte’s government must immediately end the cycle of killings, remove those involved from the ranks of the police and bring all those suspected of criminal responsibility to trial.”

Callamard added that the probe will offer drug war victims a shot at long-awaited justice, as she cited the killings of civilians including lawyers and human rights defenders.

“Thousands have been murdered by the police and militias aligned with the government, and the killers have enjoyed almost complete impunity,” she stressed.

In a 41-page decision released on Wednesday, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber said it has authorized the start of the probe into the administration’s flagship war on drugs, which it said had claimed the lives of an estimated 12,000 to 30,000 persons from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019.

While the development was welcomed by human rights and lawyers’ organizations, the Duterte government maintained it will not cooperate with the ICC since the country already withdrew from the Rome Statute in 2019.

The tribunal, however, said it retains jurisdiction over the alleged crimes conducted while the Philippines was still a state party.

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Despite the ICC’s move, local authorities said the anti-illegal drug operations will still continue. The Philippine National Police vowed enforcers will be held accountable should there be any wrongdoing.

‘Pivotal for 2022’

Callamard also believes the ICC’s announcement comes at a “pivotal time,” especially with the 2022 elections drawing near.

“Human rights should be at the center of discussions when the Philippines chooses its next leaders,” said Callamard, who has also served as the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.

“It is now crucial that the international community steps up. It must reinforce the ICC’s investigation and mandate a comprehensive, UN-led investigation into the deeply ominous human rights situation in the country,” she added.