ICC to review human rights allegations in Philippines, Venezuela

By Danielle Haynes  |  Feb. 8, 2018 at 2:23 PM
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Feb. 8 (UPI) -- The International Criminal Court on Thursday announced it will review alleged human rights violations in the Philippines and Venezuela.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office plans to examine Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, dating back to at least July 1, 2016. She said she's received reports of thousands of extrajudicial killings amid police anti-drug operations.

Upon his inauguration on June 30, 2016, Duterte promised to pay bounties to police and military officials for turning in drug lords "dead or alive."

Rights agencies and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have condemned Duterte for encouraging the killings of suspected criminals. The Human Rights Watch estimates some 14,000 people have died amid Duterte's war on drugs, though the president says a smaller number -- 3,906 -- is more accurate.

On Thursday, Duterte's office said the president welcomes the Hague review, though he believes it's "intended to embarrass" him.

"The president has said that he welcomes this preliminary examination, because he is sick and tired of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity," spokesman Harry Roque said according to Al Jazeera.

Bensouda also said the ICC would consider allegations of violent and deadly political suppression in Venezuela committed since April 2017.

"In particular, it has been alleged that state security forces frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations, and arrested and detained thousands of actual or perceived members of the opposition, a number of whom would have been allegedly subjected to serious abuse and ill-treatment in detention," she said in a statement.

HRW estimates the regime of President Nicolas Maduro "arbitrarily prosecuted" more than 750 civilians in military courts and detained more than 5,400 between April and July 2017.

"Members of security forces have beaten detainees severely and tortured them with electric shocks, asphyxiation, sexual assault, and other vicious techniques," a statement from the organization said.

Waves of protests broke out last year over the country's economic collapse, and what the opposition says is the deterioration of democracy and the violent suppression of peaceful protesters at the hands of security forces.

Bensouda said the ICC's preliminary examination of allegations in the Philippines and Venezuela do not constitute a formal investigation. The results of the review will determine whether there is enough reason to launch a full investigation.

"My office will be engaging with the national authorities concerned with a view to discussing and assessing any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level," she said.

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