ICC lets drug war victims comment on PH appeal vs probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — The International Criminal Court (ICC) has allowed "war on drugs" victims to comment on the national government's plea to halt the reopening of the probe into the Duterte administration's anti-illegal drug campaign.

In an 11-page decision, the ICC's appeals chamber instructed the Victims Participation and Reparations Section to gather and send to the chamber "representations from any interested victims and victim groups and prepare and submit a report thereon by 22 May 2023."

It ruled that written observation on Manila's appeal brief "in relation to the victims' general interests" may be provided by the ICC's Office of Public Counsel for Victims by April 18.

"The Appeals Chamber considers it appropriate for victims to be involved in these appeal proceedings," it further said.

The ICC's decision came in response to the request of 90 applicants "to present views and concerns in the present appeal proceedings" as the chamber cited their plight that "they have not been able to obtain justice and remedies for the crimes committed against their family members."

The applicants also told the appeals chamber that "investigations are the premise for any future prosecution and possible reparation[s]," which the panel said are necessary in order "for victims to see justice done and obtain remedies for the harm suffered."

Duterte's War on Drugs: A controversial centerpiece of a President's legacy

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Wedneday, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra claimed that there are families of victims who are not cooperating despite efforts from law enforcement agencies to look into the alleged cases of abuses.

While there are mechanisms to ensure their safety, “quite sadly, we are rather frustrated by the lack of interest by many, not all, but many of the families of the alleged victims,” he added.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan in February called for the dismissal of the national government's request to suspend the resumption of the probe into former President Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs," arguing that Manila has not provided any substantial argument to have the investigation suspended. 

The Philippines last week requested the ICC's appeals chamber to overturn the permission its pre-trial chamber gave to its prosecutors to resume the drug war probe. 

The appeal -- signed by Guevarra, five assistant solicitors general, and an international criminal lawyer -- also indicated that Khan "would lack any legal foundation" and his investigation would violate the country's sovereignty.

Guevarra on Wednesday told CNN Philippines it will not be good for the pre-trial chamber to proceed with its investigation if its jurisdiction is not established.