In the face of brutal crackdowns, the International Criminal Court opens preliminary examinations into Venezuela and the Philippines

The Hague, 8 February 2018 – FIDH welcomes today’s announcement by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, to open preliminary examinations into the situations in Venezuela and the Philippines. FIDH welcomes these announcements and the ICC’s pressure to address the international crimes committed by the security forces of these two states, one in the name of a so-called ‘war on drugs’, the second in the wave of violent repression of demonstrations. We now urge Venezuela and the Philippines to conduct thorough, impartial, and independent investigations into those allegedly responsible for international crimes committed on their soil and to cooperate with the Court during these preliminary examinations.

FIDH has warned about the occurrence of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. In a fact-finding mission carried out by the Observatory (an OMCT / FIDH partnership) from 7 to 16 August 2017, our organisations observed an increasingly hostile environment for human rights defenders in the country. Interlocutors reported having experienced increased difficulties in carrying out their human rights activities under President Rodrigo Duterte, in relation to investigations surrounding extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by police and vigilantes as part of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’.

The human rights situation in the country has been deteriorating ever since President Duterte took office on 30 June 2016 and declared a hard campaign against drug offenders. The ICC Prosecutor said she would analyse crimes against humanity allegedly committed since at least 1 July 2016. Since then, thousands of people have been victims of extra-judicial killings in the course of police led anti-drug operations.

"The policies of the so called ‘war on drugs’ are no justification for the extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture that claimed the lives of over 12,000 people, including children, in less than two years. The impunity for the commission of these crimes must end now by thoroughly investigating and prosecuting perpetrators".

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

President Duterte’s total disregard for human rights, the rule of law, and accountability for serious crimes has been apparent from his statements, in which he suggested the Philippines would withdraw from the Rome Statute and labelled the Court ‘useless’. The Philippines, however, confirmed its commitment during the last session of Assembly of States Parties to the ICC in New York in December.

The ICC Prosecutor announced she would examine crimes allegedly committed in Venezuela since at least April 2017 in the context of demonstrations and related political unrest. She noted that the continued demonstrations led to excessive use of force to disperse demonstrators and arrested and detained thousands of people and that many of those detained have been allegedly subjected to serious abuse and ill-treatment. It was also reported that some groups of protestors resorted to violent means, resulting in some members of security forces being injured or killed. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 124 people have been killed in the framework of the protests: 46 killings were allegedly have been committed by the security forces and 27 by the pro-government armed groups.

FIDH urges Venezuela and the Philippines to remain committed to the ICC Statute as States Parties and to work closely with the Office of the Prosecutor to ensure accountability for the international crimes allegedly committed in both countries.

FIDH has been and will remain vigilant in advocating for the need of the ICC to open preliminary examinations on different continents and in different countries where no national investigations or proceedings are being initiated.

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