MANILA: Activists and families of eight victims of the Philippines’ “war on drugs” filed a complaint on Tuesday with the International Criminal Court (ICC), a second petition accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of murder and crimes against humanity.
The 50-page complaint calls for Duterte’s indictment for what it describes as thousands of extrajudicial killings, which include “brazen” executions by police acting with impunity.
Critics of Duterte’s fierce anti-narcotics campaign were being “persecuted,” it said, and cases filed by the victims’ families had gone nowhere.
The ICC petition, formally referred to as a communication, follows a similar complaint filed in April 2017 by a Filipino lawyer, into which the ICC in February started a preliminary examination.
The latest move is led by a network of activists, priests and members of the urban poor communities that have borne the brunt of Duterte’s crackdown. The complaint includes testimony from six relatives of eight people killed by police.
“Duterte is personally liable for ordering state police to undertake mass killings,” Neri Colmenares, a lawyer representing the group, told reporters, moments after he said the complaint had been sent to the ICC.
Duterte says he has told police to kill only if their lives were in danger. In his annual address to the nation last month, he said the drugs war would be as “relentless and chilling” as its first two years.
Police say the more than 4,400 killed over that time were dealers who had all resisted arrest, and deny activists’ allegations of cover-ups and executions of drug users.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday the latest ICC petition was “doomed,” and “would not prosper,” because the Philippines’ had pulled out of the Rome Statute.
The ICC prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment and could not be reached out of normal office hours.
Duterte unilaterally withdrew from the ICC’s founding treaty in March, saying the court had not followed due process and presumption of his innocence, in actions that were compounded by “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” by UN officials.
It was a stark contrast from the previous 18 months, when the popular former mayor had repeatedly dared the ICC to investigate him and expressed his readiness to go on trial in The Hague.
The Supreme Court was due to hear oral arguments later on Tuesday in a separate complaint by some opposition lawmakers challenging the legality of Duterte’s withdrawal, which was done without Senate approval. The government’s lawyer will argue that is not required.
Jurist groups say Duterte is not protected from indictment, because the ICC’s jurisdiction covers the period of membership, which in the Philippines’ case is from 2011 to March 2019, when the withdrawal takes effect.
The ICC is a court of last resort that can exercise jurisdiction if states are unable or unwilling to investigate crimes. The Philippines government says domestic courts are capable and independent.
Benigno Durana, a national police spokesman, said on Tuesday that the only order Duterte gave to police was “to wage war on drugs and criminality within the bounds of the law.”