Edging closer to justice for The Philippines

18 Jul, 2023 | Press Releases

Brussels-Rome, 18 July 2023

After 6 months uncertainty, No Peace Without Justice welcomes the decision by the ICC Appeals Chamber to authorise the resumption of the investigation into the situation in The Philippines. “With today’s decision, the long path to justice for victims of extra-judicial killings and their families can restart”, said Alison Smith, NPWJ International Criminal Justice Director.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor was authorised to open an investigation in The Philippines in September 2021, some ten years after the extra-judicial killings in the context of the so-called “war on drugs” began in Davao, before spreading to other parts of the country following the election of former President Rodrigo Duturte in 2016. This prompted The Philippines to withdraw from the Rome Statute, meaning that any crimes alleged to have been committed after the date their withdrawal became final cannot be part of any case at the ICC. “It is disappointing that with the withdrawal, victims of crimes committed after 16 March 2019 will not have their day in Court, we are confident that they and their families will recognise their own stories in cases that are brought, and can find a measure of justice in that”, Ms Smith commented.

“Everything now needs to ramp-up at the ICC”, Ms Smith continued. “Victims and indeed the entire community in The Philippines need to be engaged in the work of the Court. Robust outreach, in local languages and using communications vehicles that work in The Philippines, has to happen in earnest. This is the best way not only to improve the Court’s investigations, through a population that can understand and trust the Court, but also to ensure the proceedings have a positive impact in the country’s social and political fabric.”

The ICC is complementary to national jurisdictions, meaning that where a country is genuinely willing and able to conduct its own investigations and prosecutions, the ICC will take a back seat. “Today’s decision – symbolically coming the day after we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute – unfortunately confirms that there are currently no real prospects for justice in the Filippino criminal justice system”, Ms Smith said. “This would have been preferable on many levels and would have been a demonstration of a real commitment to human rights, including redress for victims. We still remain hopeful that there will be a shift in political will that would allow the domestic path to justice to be opened.”

“For now, the ICC represents the best hope for justice in The Philippines. We call on ICC States Parties to cooperate fully with the Court in its investigations and to ensure it has sufficient resources to conduct those investigations and to carry out its work on outreach and victim participation,” Ms Smith concluded, “so that today’s decision can mark the resumption of a swift, efficient and effective accountability process for the victims of extra-judicial killings and their families”.