U.S., E.U., U.N. reps invited anew to investigate extra-judicial killings; Int’l Crime Court warns officials involved may face trial in the Hague

Agnes Callamard (Photos: www.wikipedia.com)

By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent

Malacañang has yet to send a formal written invitation to United States and European Union representatives to come to the Philippines to look into extra-judicial killings linked to the government’s war against illegal drugs, said Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.

Abella said no letter has yet been sent to U.S. President Barack Obama, nor to the E.U. or its representatives. He said he will confirm if the Office of the President has any plans to send invitations.

He said only the government’s official invite to United Nations’ special rapporteur Agnes Callamard has been sent out. Callamard is special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

U.N. special rapporteurs usually conduct investigations on allegations of human rights violations. They may only investigate in countries that have invited them.

Abella said Malacañang has not gotten a reply from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, three weeks after the office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea sent the invite to Callamard.

Callamard meanwhile, took to social media to say that she accepts the invitation to go to the Philippines. She immediately posted in her Twitter account that she welcomes the Philippine government’s invitation.

Medialdea forwarded the formal invitation to Callamard dated September 26. In his letter, he said the special rapporteur is invited to take a fresh look at the extra-judicial killings on the condition that President Rodrigo Duterte could also pose questions to the U.N. representative in the name of fairness and due process.

Duterte slammed the U.S., Obama and the E.U. for criticizing his bloody war on drugs. It is reported that over 3,000 people have died because of it.

In several of his speeches, Duterte invited the U.N. special rapporteur, E.U. representatives and Obama to visit the Philippines and do their own investigations regarding drug-related killings.

Duterte also said he is ready to humiliate them in a debate on human rights.

“Come here. Investigate me. But give me the right to be heard. So I will have to ask you questions after questioning me. I’ll let them play into my hands,” Duterte said.

“I’m very sure they can never be brighter than me. Believe me,” he added.

Meanwhile, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has warned Philippine officials of possible prosecution for apparently condoning or even encouraging the bloody campaign against illegal drugs and criminality.

“Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the court,” said Fatou in a statement.

“I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements of high officials of the Republic of the Philippines seem to condone such killings and further seem to encourage state forces and civilians alike to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force,” she added.

Bensouda’s statement appeared aimed as a blunt warning to Duterte, whose anti-drug crackdown has left an estimated 3,000 people dead allegedly involved in the drug trade.

The Philippines is a member-state of the ICC, the world’s first global court prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity. This means crimes committed in the country could be prosecuted at the Hague-based institution.

Extra-judicial killings may fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC if they are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population in pursuit of a state policy.

She said her office, in accordance with its mandate under the Rome Statute, “will be closely following developments in the Philippines in the weeks to come and record any instance of incitement or resort to violence with a view to assessing whether a preliminary examination into the situation of the Philippines needs to be opened.”

Responding to the latest attack from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Duterte said he should not be blamed for the killings attributed to summary executions. He said he had no direct hand in vigilante killings but admitted having encouraged law enforcers to shoot drug pushers dead – only in self-defense or if the targets resist arrest during police operations.

Duterte exuded confidence in a speech that he could easily parry any criminal investigation into the killings.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC is conducting investigations in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic; Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali and Georgia.