By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ISTANBUL (AA) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected a plea by the Philippines to suspend a probe into the country’s so-called “war on drugs”, ruling that Manila has not presented “persuasive reasons” to seek the suspension.
“In the absence of persuasive reasons in support of ordering suspensive effect, the Appeals Chamber rejects the request. This is without prejudice to its eventual decision on the merits of the Philippines’ appeal against the Impugned Decision,” said the ICC in an eight-page decision released on Monday night.
The Philippines had early this month asked the ICC to suspend a probe into the country's so-called war on drugs.
Acknowledging that while Manila provides “supporting arguments with respect to the absence of the court’s (ICC) jurisdiction in the Philippines situation,” the court however said: “It fails to explain how the alleged absence of a jurisdictional or legal basis for the resumption of the Prosecutor’s activities pending the resolution of the appeal would defeat its very purpose and create an irreversible situation that could not be corrected.”
Manila’s top prosecutor had sent a 51-page appeal to the ICC, saying: “The prosecution’s activities in furtherance of its investigations would lack any legal foundation and encroach on the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines.”
The ICC had in January resumed its probe into the controversial war on drugs, launched by former Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, arguing that it was "not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court's investigations on the basis of the complementarity principle."
The Philippines Office of the Solicitor General, however, had asked the ICC tribunal's Appeals Chamber to suspend the investigation until the resolution of its submission and to rule that the court's prosecution was not authorized to resume its probe.
If the international court proceeds "without jurisdictional basis," said the appeal, "its mandate would be adversely affected due to the implications such acts would have for those affected by the Court's operations, in particular suspects, witnesses, and victims."
However, the ICC said it is “not persuaded that the implementation of the Impugned Decision would cause consequences that ‘would be very difficult to correct’ or that ‘may be irreversible’, or ‘could potentially defeat the purpose of the appeal’.”
The war on drugs was launched in June 2016 under Duterte with a large-scale campaign to arrest drug dealers and users, with police given the green light to kill criminals as part of the policy.
In 2018, Duterte announced his country's withdrawal from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, effective March 2019. But the court said it "retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that occurred on the territory of the Philippines while it was a state party."
In September 2021, the ICC opened a probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed from Nov. 1, 2011 to March 16, 2019, during the war on drugs.
However, it halted the probe on Nov. 18, 2021, after objections were raised by Manila.
The ICC prosecutor, however, sought a revival of investigations on June 24, 2022.
Duterte has said he "would never allow foreigners to sit in judgment of him as long as Philippine courts are willing and able to do so."