Posts Tagged ‘International Criminal Court’

Philippines: President Duterte Under Fire From The New York Times

April 27, 2017

By Penny Starr

Beitbart

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte walks past honour guards before Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald Bato Dela Rosa's Assumption of Command Ceremony at the Camp Crame in Manila on July 1, 2016. Authoritarian firebrand Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as the Philippines' president on June 30, after promising a ruthless and deeply controversial war on crime would be the main focus of his six-year term. / AFP / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times’ (NYT) editorial board published a commentary focused on a Philippine lawyer’s request to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to charge the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, with mass murder and crimes against humanity for his crackdown on drug traffickers.

“A Filipino lawyer formally asked the International Criminal Court on Monday to charge President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity over the extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in the Philippines over the past three decades,” the NYT editorial stated, under the headline “Let the World Condemn Duterte.”

“The I.C.C. should promptly open a preliminary investigation into the killings,” the editorial stated.

Attorney Jude Josue Sabio filed the complaint under his name, but he is also representing two men who claim they were paid members of Duterte’s so-called death squad, according to the Times.

The complaint reports the deaths of 9,400 people, including political rivals and innocent civilian adults and children.

“Mr. Sabio is not the first to accuse Mr. Duterte of mass killings — so have Human Rights Watch, in 2009; Amnesty International, this January; and some brave Filipino politicians. The I.C.C. chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared last October that the court was ‘closely following’ developments in the Philippines,” the editorial stated.

The Times notes that, despite these facts, Duterte remains popular and the conditions might not meet the requirements for the high court’s consideration.

“But there is already more than enough evidence for a preliminary investigation, which would send an unmistakable signal to Mr. Duterte that he may eventually have to answer for his crimes, and would encourage governments to take measures against him, such as imposing tariffs on Philippine goods,” the editorial stated.

“This is a man who must be stopped,” the editorial concluded.

The Philippine Star reported Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson called the Times editorial  “reckless, irresponsible and baseless.”

Ernesto Abella said that, while Duterte’s administration recognizes the newspaper’s right to state an opinion, the government has a “clear disagreement” with the editorial because it was based on Sabio’s complaint.

“Sabio is the lawyer of Edgar Matobato, who last year admitted that he was a member of a killing squad that was allegedly used by Duterte to eliminate drug suspects, criminals and political opponents when he was still the mayor of Davao City in southern Philippines,” the Star reported.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a longtime Duterte critic praised the Times editorial, saying that the evidence against him is “quite substantial.”

“[Duterte] recently offered a reward for information leading to the capture of Abu Sayyaf and other militants behind a foiled attack in the central province of Bohol,” the UK Independent reported: “Eight militants, three soldiers, a policeman and two villagers have died in clashes in Bohol, which lies far from the southern jungle bases of the militants.”

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/04/26/nyt-editorial-board-let-the-world-condemn-duterte/

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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NY Times editorial paints Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as ‘a man who must be stopped’

April 26, 2017
/ 04:47 PM April 26, 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte-- April 4. 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

“This is a man who must be stopped.”

In yet another strongly worded piece on the spate of killings in the Philippines, the New York Times (NYT) editorial board on Wednesday called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “stop” President Rodrigo Duterte and launch an initial investigation into summary executions amid his administration’s so-called war on drugs.

The editorial, titled “Let the World Condemn Duterte,” touched on the case of crime against humanity filed against Duterte and 11 other officials before the ICC by lawyer Jude Josue Sabio, counsel of confessed Davao Death Squad hitman Edgar Matobato.

READ: Duterte, 11 others accused of crimes against humanity before ICC

“The ICC should promptly open a preliminary investigation into the killings… After he was elected president last year, Mr. Duterte took the killing campaign nationwide, effectively declaring an open season for police and vigilantes on drug dealers and users,” the NYT editorial board said.

“There is already more than enough evidence for a preliminary investigation, which would send an unmistakable signal to Mr. Duterte that he may eventually have to answer for his crimes, and would encourage governments to take measures against him, such as imposing tariffs on Philippine goods,” it added.

But the editorial acknowledged that the ICC may be “reluctant” to prosecute Duterte because of his “enormous” popularity among Filipinos. Duterte has maintained majority satisfaction and trust ratings in the first quarter of 2017, according to recent surveys by Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations.

READ: Duterte keeps ‘very good’ satisfaction rating — SWS | Duterte still most trusted exec—Pulse

It also noted that the ICC was created to “prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes among member countries only when their national courts are unwilling or unable to do so.”

“Those conditions might be met if the Philippines House of Representatives, dominated by Mr. Duterte’s allies, quashes, as expected, an impeachment motion filed by an opposition lawyer,” the editorial read.

“And if the findings of Mr. Sabio, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and politicians, or the confessions of the former death squad members, are not enough evidence, there are Mr. Duterte’s savage words. “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he told reporters in one of his most outrageous statements (and misstating the figure for the Holocaust, which is six million). This is a man who must be stopped,” it added.

READ: What ‘filing’ a ‘complaint’ in ICC means

Duterte is facing an impeachment complaint filed by the Magdalo party-list group over his bloody war on drugs and his alleged mishandling of the South China Sea dispute.

In October last year, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the Court would be “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.”

“My Office is aware of worrying reported extra-judicial killings of alleged drug dealers and users in the Philippines…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,” Bensouda then said.

“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,” she added.

The latest NYT editorial follows the release of other pieces critical of Duterte in previous months, including a news feature titled “Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman,” another editorial titled “Accountability for Duterte,” and a video documentary titled “When a President Says ‘I’ll Kill You.’” The publication also won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography for its photo essay on the war on drugs “They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals.”

Malacañang earlier accused the NYT of being part of a “well-funded demolition job” against President Duterte. IDL

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A Filipino lawyer formally asked the International Criminal Court on Monday to charge President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity over the extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in the Philippines over the past three decades. The I.C.C. should promptly open a preliminary investigation into the killings.

The lawyer, Jude Josue Sabio, filed the complaint in his own name, but he also represents two men who have publicly said they were paid members of the death squad that Mr. Duterte set up in Davao City when he was the mayor to hunt down drug dealers. After he was elected president last year, Mr. Duterte took the killing campaign nationwide, effectively declaring an open season for police and vigilantes on drug dealers and users. In all, Mr. Sabio said in the 77-page filing, more than 9,400 people have been killed, most of them poor young men, but also bystanders, children and political opponents.

Mr. Sabio is not the first to accuse Mr. Duterte of mass killings — so have Human Rights Watch, in 2009; Amnesty International, this January; and some brave Filipino politicians. The I.C.C. chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared last October that the court was “closely following” developments in the Philippines.

There are reasons why the I.C.C. might be reluctant to go after Mr. Duterte. He is enormously popular with many Filipinos, for whom narcotics are a major scourge.

The court, moreover, was created to prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes among member countries only when their national courts are unwilling or unable to do so. Those conditions might be met if the Philippines House of Representatives, dominated by Mr. Duterte’s allies, quashes, as expected, an impeachment motion filed by an opposition lawyer. But there is already more than enough evidence for a preliminary investigation, which would send an unmistakable signal to Mr. Duterte that he may eventually have to answer for his crimes, and would encourage governments to take measures against him, such as imposing tariffs on Philippine goods.

And if the findings of Mr. Sabio, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and politicians, or the confessions of the former death squad members, are not enough evidence, there are Mr. Duterte’s savage words. “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he told reporters in one of his most outrageous statements (and misstating the figure for the Holocaust, which is six million).

This is a man who must be stopped.

Mass Murder in the Philippines Reaches The International Criminal Court — Duterte’s anti-crime campaign is about murder of mostly poor young men, lawyer says

April 25, 2017
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Lawyer Jude Sabio holds a 77-page complaint outside the International Criminal Court in The Hague yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines – The lawyer of a self-confessed hit man of the so-called Davao death squad (DDS) yesterday filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against President Duterte and 11 other officials for alleged crimes against humanity in the course of a nationwide crackdown on drugs.

Jude Josue Sabio, the lawyer of ex-DDS hit man Edgar Matobato, filed the 77-page complaint titled “The Situation of Mass Murder in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte: The Mass Murderer” before the office of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

In a Senate inquiry last year, Matobato accused Duterte of masterminding the killings of over a thousand criminal suspects and opponents when the latter was mayor of Davao City.

Aside from Duterte, other officials included in the communication for violating different provisions of the Rome Statute are Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II; Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa; Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez; former interior secretary Ismael Sueno; Supt. Edilberto Leonardo; Senior Police Officer 4 Sanson Buenaventura; Supt. Royina Garma; National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran; Solicitor General Jose Calida and Senators Richard Gordon and Alan Peter Cayetano.

The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC, the first permanent international court responsible for trying perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, which are the Statute’s four core international crimes.

The Philippines is a state party to the Rome Statute, together with 123 other state parties, after ratifying it in August 2011.

The ICC steps in only when the state is unable or unwilling to stop the perpetration of the crimes.

Sabio said he filed the complaint to hold Duterte accountable “in the name of international criminal justice, and to once and for all end this dark, obscene, murderous and evil era in the Philippines,” as key government institutions had failed to act on the cases of extrajudicial killings.

“All in all, the ‘repeated, unchanging and continuous’ mass murder being conducted by Duterte has already resulted in the deaths of not less than 1,400 individuals in Davao City under his Davao death squad and not less than 7,000 individuals in his war on drugs (on) the national level,” the complaint read.

“His strategy, system or policy of crime control then in Davao City was to ‘erase’, eliminate or kill suspected criminals such as snatchers, robbers, and drug pushers/addicts through his now infamous Davao death squad. Even while Duterte is already President of the Philippines, his system or strategy of erasing, eliminating and killing persons suspected of crimes is still, in fact, being undertaken in Davao City up to the present,” it stated.

Sabio asked the ICC prosecutor to conduct a preliminary examination and a formal investigation leading to the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Duterte and the 11 other officials for their detention pending their trial “in order to prevent them from continuing with the commission of mass murder and to prevent them from killing potential victims and witnesses.”

The complaint cited 10 similarities in the extrajudicial killings done in Davao City by the DDS and the summary executions happening now, including “the element of police participation and command”; the presence of a hit man or an unknown armed assailant; the inclusion of a cash reward system for every killing and the existence of a “kill watchlist.”

“Sixth, there is collaboration between barangay and police officials; seventh, there is the cardboard sign and the face/body wrapped in packing tape; eighth, there is the use of ‘riding in tandem’ motorcycle-riding assailants; ninth, there is the use of hooded or masked assailants and tenth, there is the planting of a gun and drugs,” it said.

The complaint also cited Duterte’s “‘I will kill you’ mental state,” as well as his claimed “best practices” in fighting crime through summary executions.

To bolster the allegations, the complaint also relied on the testimonies of retired police officer and self-confessed DDS member Arthur Lascañas, who also testified last March before the Senate, confirming Matobato’s claims.

Senators, however, found Lascañas as having no credibility after he testified last year and denied the existence of the DDS when Matobato accused Duterte of spearheading extrajudicial killings.

Lascañas left the country earlier this month for Singapore with his family, saying he feared for his life.

The complaint also cited the petition filed by a certain Ernesto Avasola, who petitioned the courts in 2009 to exhume alleged remains of victims of the DDS in Davao City.

‘Wild’

The complaint also lamented that the Senate had failed to act as a check against the extrajudicial killings despite having conducted at least two inquiries into the summary executions connected to Duterte’s war on drugs.

Sabio contended that the Senate is not expected to seek Duterte’s accountability, as it is dominated by his allies even as he recounted in detail the political shifts in the chamber, including the events leading to the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima on drug charges, the stand of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV against extrajudicial killings and the ouster of members of the Liberal Party from the majority bloc.

“In turn, this unwillingness or inability of the Senate can be interpreted to mean as a direct intention to obstruct justice with the aim of shielding Duterte from being exposed to criminal liability,” Sabio stated.

Except for Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, who described the complaint as “wild,” other senators declined to issue statements or could not be reached for comment.

“Crimes against humanity? Drug pushers fighting back against police operations are now called humanity?” Sotto said in a text message.

Bensouda said that last year, her office was following developments in the Philippines “with a view to assessing whether a preliminary examination needs to be opened.”

“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 said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/25/1693669/matobato-lawyer-files-case-vs-rody-icc

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — A Filipino lawyer asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Monday to charge President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other Philippine officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity in the killings of thousands of people over three decades.

The lawyer, Jude Josue Sabio, said in a 77-page complaint that Mr. Duterte was the “mastermind” of a campaign that has killed more than 9,400 people, mostly poor young men, since 1988, when Mr. Duterte was first elected mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines.

“The situation in the Philippines reveals a terrifying, gruesome and disastrous continuing commission of extrajudicial executions or mass murder from the time President Duterte was the mayor of Davao City,” the complaint says.

Mr. Sabio represents two men who say they were paid assassins for Mr. Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City, but filed the case on his own. The court has the authority to accept cases brought by individuals as well as by nations and the United Nations Security Council.

Mr. Duterte was elected president last year after pledging to kill criminals as part of what he called a war on drugs. Since taking office last June, he has repeatedly urged the police to kill suspects and has promised to protect or pardon police officers who are prosecuted.

According to police statistics, more than 4,000 people have been killed by the police in antidrug operations or by vigilantes in drug-related cases since Mr. Duterte became president. Mr. Sabio’s complaint puts that number at more than 8,000.

In addition, the complaint cites the killings of more than 1,400 people who Mr. Sabio and rights advocates say were killed over 28 years in Mr. Duterte’s anti-crime campaign in Davao City.

The complaint also names Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre; the national police chief, Ronald dela Rosa; House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez; and two senators, Peter Cayetano and Richard Gordon.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-icc-complaint.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

Read the rest:

Lawyer for Philippine president calls ICC complaint ‘propaganda’

April 24, 2017

Reuters

The chief lawyer for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday dismissed a complaint made against the leader and his top officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) as “propaganda”, and doubted it had jurisdiction over the issue.

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FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announces the disbandment of police operations against illegal drugs at the Malacanang palace in Manila, Philippines early January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan/File Photo

MANILA:The chief lawyer for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday dismissed a complaint made against the leader and his top officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) as “propaganda”, and doubted it had jurisdiction over the issue.

In a telephone interview with news channel ANC, Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the 77-page complaint filed by a Philippine lawyer Jude Sabio accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity was an attempted slur by the president’s opponents.

Panelo said there was no evidence to support allegations that state-sponsored extrajudicial killings had taken place under Duterte’s presidency, or when he was mayor of southern Davao City. The allegations centre on Duterte’s bloody nationwide war on drugs and his anti-crime campaigns in Davao.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: Reuters
Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/lawyer-for-philippine-president-calls-icc-complaint–propaganda–8788062

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is alleged to have killed some 8,000 people — Now a lawyer wants the International Criminal Court to hear the facts

April 24, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Sophie MIGNON | Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is alleged to have killed some 8,000 people

THE HAGUE (AFP) – 

A Philippine lawyer on Monday filed a complaint at the world’s only permanent war crimes court against President Rodrigo Duterte, alleging his war on drugs has caused some 8,000 deaths.

Lawyer Jude Sabio urged the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate Duterte and senior adminstration officials and bring charges of crimes against humanity against them for “the terrifying and gruesome situation of continuing mass murder in the Philippines”.

Sabio, who is the lawyer for Duterte’s confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, said the president “began his strategy or system of eliminating or killing persons suspected of crimes, including drug addicts and pushers” when he became mayor of Davao City in 1988.

“The ‘repeated, unchanging and continuous’ mass murder being conducted by the President Duterte has already resulted into the deaths of not less than 1,400 individuals in Davao City under his Davao Death Squad and not less than 7,000 individuals in his war on drugs at the national level,” the filing said.

Sabio travelled to The Hague to hand over his complaint in person to the office of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

There was no immediate reply from her office to an AFP request for comment, but Bensouda in October issued a strong statement about the alleged killings, warning those responsible could face prosecution.

“I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements from high officials of the… Philippines seem to condone such killings,” she said.

“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… to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable for prosecution before the court.”

Duterte won election by a landslide last May largely on his promise to launch a war on illegal drugs.

Although the campaign has proved popular at home, the president has faced international criticism for the thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings.

– Police probe under way –

The government denies the allegations, and presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said Monday that police were already probing those suspected “of violating procedures.”

He also pointed to an investigation by the country’s Senate, in which Matobato was a star witness, and said the ICC “as a court of last resort, will only exercise jurisdiction over a case once legal remedies in the Philippines have been exhausted.”

The so-called ‘extrajudicial killings’, are not state-sanctioned or state-sponsored. Police authorities are conducting legitimate operations that require observance of operational protocols,” Abella added.

Since it began work in 2002, the ICC says the prosecutor’s office has received some 10,000 requests from individuals, groups or countries to investigate alleged crimes.

It is then up to the prosecutor to decide if there is enough cause to open a preliminary inquiry into whether a full-blown investigation is then merited. There are currently 10 preliminary examinations, and 10 full investigations under way.

A total of 23 cases have been dealt with, securing nine convictions and one acquittal. Five trials are ongoing.

by Sophie MIGNON
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Lawyer for Philippines hit-man files complaint against President Duterte at International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity

April 24, 2017

Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a meeting with the Filipino community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
By Clare Baldwin and Stephanie van den Berg | HONG KONG/THE HAGUE

A Philippines lawyer filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Rodrigo Duterte and senior officials on Monday, accusing them of crimes against humanity in a nationwide anti-drugs crackdown.

Attorney Jude Sabio said in the 77-page complaint that Duterte “repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously” committed crimes against humanity and that under him, killing drug suspects and other criminals has become “best practice”.

Sabio is the lawyer for Edgar Matobato, a man who has testified in the Philippines Senate that he was part of a hit squad that operated on Duterte’s orders.

It is the first publicly known communication to the ICC against Duterte and is based on the testimony of Matobato and retired policeman Arturo Lascanas, statements from rights groups and media reports, including a Reuters series on the killings.

The complaint alleges that Duterte and at least 11 senior government officials are liable for murder and calls for an investigation, arrest warrants and a trial.

Lawmakers found no proof of Matobato’s Senate testimony, which the president’s aides have dismissed as fabrication.

Almost 9,000 people have been killed since Duterte took office last summer. Police claim a third of those killings were in self-defence during legitimate police operations. Rights groups say many of the remaining two-thirds were committed by vigilantes cooperating with the police or by police disguised as vigilantes. Police deny this.

Duterte has persistently denied he is involved with any death squad and said that his orders to kill drug suspects come with the caveat that police should operate within the bounds of the law.

Ernesto Abella, a spokesman for Duterte, said last week authorities “follow operational protocols” and those who breached procedures were made to answer before the law.

He added that news reports about close to 9,000 people being killed in the drug war was “false news”.

“We can confirm we have received a communication,” the ICC Office of the Prosecutor said in a statement. “We will analyse it, as appropriate. As soon as we reach a decision, we will inform the sender and provide reasons for our decision.”

Officials at Duterte’s office said they were not immediately able to comment.

FIRST STEP

Since it was set up in July 2002, the ICC has received over 12,0000 complaints or communications. Nine of these cases have gone to trial and six verdicts have been delivered.

The ICC has no powers of enforcement, and any non-compliance has to be referred to the United Nations or the court’s own oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties.

The complaint is only a possible first step in what could be a long process at the ICC. The tribunal first has to decide whether it has jurisdiction, and then decide whether it should conduct a preliminary examination.

It can then ask a judge to open an official investigation, which could lead to a trial.

Duterte has said he welcomed the prospect of the ICC putting him on trial. He said last month he would not be intimidated and his campaign against drugs would be unrelenting and “brutal”.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said last year her office was following developments in the Philippines “with a view to assessing whether a preliminary examination needs to be opened”.

“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 said.

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and beard

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Philippines: Presidential Spokesman Calls 7,000 Extrajudicial Killings “Fake News” (It’s actually more like 9,000) — Further Erodes Credibility of Philippine Government, Philippine National Police (PNP)

April 21, 2017
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella called reports on more than 7,000 extralegal killings “false news.” PCOO/King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson on Friday called reports of nearly 9,000 drug-related deaths “false news,” months after media organizations and international groups used the figure in their reports.

Ernesto Abella, the presidential spokesperson, said that the persistent reports of more 7,000 killed, which is now said to be nearly 9,000, was “false news” as the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that the figure was much lower.

“On the number of extrajudicial deaths, the persistent news reports of 7,000 killed, which is now being said to be close to 9,000, is false,” Abella said.

The president’s spokesperson said that based on official police data there were only 6,011 homicide cases being investigated. Of the figure, only 1,398 cases were found to be drug related, contrary to reports that 9,000 have already been killed in anti-illegal drugs operations, Abella said.

Abella, meanwhile, called on organizations which report on drug incidents to be fair and not to rush to judgment as he emphasized that people appreciated the changes being implemented by the administration and the way these were carried out.

“We ask to be understood not just from a single perspective, but from the point of view of Filipinos who desire change, stability and fairness,” Abella said.

The number of murders and homicide cases, however, have risen dramatically at the start of the Duterte administration last year despite government’s denial that they are related to the brutal war on drugs. Drug experts also acknowledge that stringent law enforcement policy against narcotics have historically resulted in unnecessary violence and deaths.

Abella’s comments came days after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that public satisfaction with the government’s conduct of the war on drugs plunging by 11 points, from +77 in December 2016 to +66 in March 2017.

He also assuaged American concern on the increasing extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, saying that those who breached protocol would be made to account.

“We share the concern of US Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, who has been quoted in the media saying ‘there are elements of the drug war that are operating outside the rule of law,’” the spokesperson said.

Abella said that the PNP has an Internal Affairs Service which would probe into cases of police violations.

“This body can suspend or dismiss PNP personnel based on violations incurred and can recommend the filing of criminal charges,” he said.

He said that security forces followed procedures in conducting their operations although force may be used to protect the safety of the police.

“Local authorities follow operation protocols and the proper enforcement of our laws requires the use of reasonable force merited by the attendant circumstances,” he said.

Not a single cop, however, has been accused by police investigators before a court of unjustifiably killing drug suspects in police operations. President Rodrigo Duterte himself said he will defend and pardon cops accused of wrongdoing in the field.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/21/1692511/abella-calls-7000-extrajudicial-killings-fake-news

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

 

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and beard

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

 

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Philippines: National Police killings ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population’ — ‘Reign of terror’ — ‘Extermination’ — Insiders talking to evidence gatherers for the International Criminal Court

April 18, 2017
At least 39 people were killed in police operations during Holy Week as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa proved true to his word that there would be no Lenten break in the war on drugs. AP/Bullit Marquez, file
  • Almost 9,000 people killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June
  • Two senior officials have claimed that police orchestrated many of those killings 
  • Police paid to kill drug suspects and – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers’

The Philippine police have given bonuses for killing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the murders they blamed on vigilantes, said two senior officers.

The officials, who are critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ challenged the government’s explanations of the killings in interviews.

Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defence during legitimate anti-drug operations.

Human rights monitors believe the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins working with police or by police disguised as vigilantes – a charge the police deny.

Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, claim officials critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's (pictured) 'war on drugs'

Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, claim officials critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s (pictured) ‘war on drugs’

The two senior officers, one a retired police intelligence officer and the other an active-duty commander, claimed the killings are in fact orchestrated by the police, including most of those carried out by vigilantes. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.

‘It is the Philippine National Police doing it,’ said the retired intelligence officer.

‘This killing machine must be buried six feet under the ground.’ He said he was angry about the impact of the killings on police discipline and wanted ‘to put Duterte on the defensive.’ Reuters was unable to independently verify if the police are behind vigilante killings.

The president’s office and the Philippine police did not respond to questions from Reuters.

The intelligence officer has authored an unpublished 26-page report on the conduct of the drug war in an effort to organize opposition to Duterte’s campaign.

The report, titled ‘The State-Sponsored Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines,’ provides granular detail on the campaign’s alleged methods, masterminds and perpetrators. The document has been shared with leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and with the government-funded Commission on Human Rights.

Some of the report’s accusations against individuals could not be confirmed by Reuters; the news agency is therefore not publishing the full document.

Many of its findings, however, support and expand upon previous investigations of the drug war by Reuters and independent human rights monitors.

Human rights monitors believe paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes killed two thirds of the 9,000 people who have died since June 30 - a charge police deny

Human rights monitors believe paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes killed two thirds of the 9,000 people who have died since June 30 – a charge police deny

The report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers.’

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte’s hometown of Davao, were drafted to ‘augment and assist’ the police’s current nationwide anti-drug operation.

The report doesn’t provide documentary evidence for its accusations, which the intelligence officer said were based on accounts from 17 serving or former policemen, including the commander Reuters interviewed. The police commander said he agreed to talk because he was upset that authorities are targeting only petty drug suspects. ‘Why aren’t they killing the suppliers?’ he asked. ‘Only the poor are dying.’

The second half of the report is largely political in nature, asserting that Duterte has close ties to Communist forces in the Philippines. Many in the military and police are concerned by what they see as Duterte’s leftist sympathies. Since taking office, the president has released Communist rebels from prison to restart peace talks.

The report also calls the drug war a ‘social cleansing’ campaign similar to that launched in Mao Zedong’s China, with Duterte aiming to have drug addicts ‘physically eliminated.’

The Commission on Human Rights has reviewed the report and the accounts could open up new leads in ongoing investigations, said chairman Chito Gascon. Church officials confirmed receiving the report as well.

A report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also - for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head - rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other 'troublemakers' (pictured, police interrogating local residents in operation against drugs

A report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers’ (pictured, police interrogating local residents in operation against drugs

‘We should do all we can to follow any lead that could ultimately shed light on these killings with the view to ultimately holding the perpetrators to account,’ said Gascon.

The fresh claims come amid growing criticism of the drug war. In February, the country’s influential Catholic Church called it a ‘reign of terror.’ The campaign has also sparked street protests and lawsuits.

Duterte’s police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, halted police operations for most of February after it emerged that an anti-drug unit had kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman last year. The killings continued but at a slower pace. On March 6, Dela Rosa announced that the police were resuming their drug operations.

In March, a former policeman, Arturo Lascanas, testified in the Philippine Senate about his role in vigilante-style killings in the southern city of Davao, where Duterte was once mayor. Lascanas was the second Senate witness to link Duterte to the Davao Death Squad. Duterte denies ordering any killings, either as president or mayor.

In a subsequent interview, Lascanas told Reuters that for over a decade he was paid for carrying out the liquidation of drug suspects and criminals. In the early 1990s, he said, he was paid 3,000 to 5,000 pesos ($60-$100) for each of the ‘jobs’ he performed.

By the early 2000s he was earning tens of thousands of pesos for each operation, he said. Lascanas said he had no documentary proof of the payments. He has since left the country.

In the past nine months, police acknowledge having shot dead more than 2,600 suspects during their operations. They say such shootings occur after suspects open fire on undercover officers trying to catch them dealing drugs.

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte's hometown of Davao, were drafted to 'augment and assist' the police's current nationwide anti-drug operation. Pictured, Duterte with Trade Secretary Liam Fox)

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte’s hometown of Davao, were drafted to ‘augment and assist’ the police’s current nationwide anti-drug operation. Pictured, Duterte with UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox

But these so-called ‘buy-busts’ are actually well-planned executions, said the commander interviewed by Reuters. The commander said targets are chosen from lists of suspects drawn up by police and local officials, who later coordinate to unplug security cameras in the neighbourhood where a killing is planned. According to the report, street lamps are also switched off.

‘There is no such thing as a legitimate buy-bust,’ the commander said. ‘The dealers know the cops and won’t sell to them.’

Instead, he said, a team of police operatives will execute the target, who is almost always unarmed, then plant guns and drugs at the crime scene to justify the use of deadly force.

‘We have to plant evidence for the legality of the operation,’ the commander said. ‘We are ordered to do these operations, so we have to protect ourselves.’

The commander said officers put the gun in the dead suspect’s hand and pull the trigger with the victim’s finger so forensic testing will show that the suspect fired a gun.

Late last year, he said, police crime-scene investigators told their fellow officers to place the guns at a slight distance from the suspects, rather than in their hands, to make things look more realistic.

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. The superiors refer to this as a ‘baptism by fire.’

Each member of the team is quickly paid according to two factors, said the commander: his role in the killing and the target’s value.

According to the report, the cash ‘reward scales’ for drug killings range from 20,000 pesos ($400) for a ‘street level pusher and user,’ to 50,000 pesos for a member of a neighborhood council, one million pesos for ‘distributors, retailers and wholesalers,’ and five million for ‘drug lords.’

Police officers kill for money, said the commander, but also out of fear: Even the police are afraid of being included on a ‘watch list’ of drug suspects drawn up by police and local officials.

Officials have been killed for not cooperating, he added. He said he was aware of two cases but did not provide details on exactly what happened.

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. Pictured, armed Filipino policemen stand guard next to the wall of a prison facility

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. Pictured, armed Filipino policemen stand guard next to the wall of a prison facility

Reuters reported last year that the watch lists were effectively hit lists, with many of those named ending up dead. Another Reuters investigation showed that police officers were killing 97 percent of the suspects they confront in violent buy-bust operations, the strongest evidence yet that the police were summarily executing suspects.

Officers also cooperate because they know the police force’s flawed disciplinary system, which fails to adequately investigate even a fraction of the killings, means there is little chance they will get caught, said the intelligence officer.

One sign of the drug war’s success, says the government, is that more than a million users and pushers have voluntarily registered with the police, a process known as ‘surrendering.’

But the commander said police are given a quota of ‘surrenderers,’ and fill it by using city ordinances to arrest men who are drunk or shirtless – a misdemeanor known as ‘half-naked’ – then forcing them to register as drug suspects.

Reuters learned of the intelligence officer’s 26-page report from him and interviewed two Catholic priests in Manila who said they had encouraged him to compile it. One of the priests said he edited the report; the other said he helped distribute it among a small group of clerics and human rights activists. Both are helping organize opposition to Duterte’s drug campaign.

The Church’s initial reluctance to criticize Duterte’s drug war was prompted by a desire to ‘give him a chance’ when he took office, said one of the priests. But the killings, along with the president’s overtures to Communists, made many in the Church feel their values were under attack, he said.

The intelligence officer said he hoped the report would be used as evidence at the International Criminal Court. In October, the Hague-based tribunal said it could prosecute suspects if the killings were ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4421430/Police-kill-rewards-staged-crime-scenes-Dutertes-drug-war.html#ixzz4ecS4W7LE
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

Image may contain: 1 person

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

Image may contain: text

No automatic alt text available.

Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl looks like it has been put out with the trash…..
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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

 

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and beard

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

 

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

After Tillerson Visit, Signs Show Russia Increasingly Fed Up With Assad

April 15, 2017

Moscow now finds itself in a curious position. It is unlikely to give up on its commitment to the region – and therefore lose face in a part of the world it knows well – but it does appear to be increasingly fed up with Assad

Amie Ferris-Rotman Apr 15, 2017 9:00 AM

(Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File). FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, shakes hand with Syrian President Bashar Assad as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, l...

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, shakes hand with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Oct. 20, 2015. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at far rights. Alexei Druzhinin/AP

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MOSCOW – Several months ago, questioning Moscow’s support for its long-time ally in Damascus was unthinkable. But after this week’s visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the dynamic could begin to shift, ever so slightly.

Tillerson’s whistle-stop visit to Moscow included a two-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, as well as long sit-downs with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. On Wednesday evening, when speaking to journalists, Tillerson described the Syria crisis as if some backdoor breakthroughs had possibly been discussed. “Our view is that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end, and they have again brought this on themselves,” he said next to Lavrov. “We discussed our view that Russia, as their closest ally in the conflict, perhaps has the best means of helping Assad recognize this reality.” Tillerson added that Assad’s departure should be conducted “in an orderly way.”

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Lavrov, a silver-tongued veteran diplomat for whom the inexperienced Tillerson is the fifth Secretary of State he has worked with, offered seemingly conflicting views on Assad. He both dismissed the idea of ousting a “particular personality” in Syria but also stressed that “we are not staking everything on a personality, on President Assad.” He went even further, suggesting that a new Syrian constitution be drawn up, and a more diverse government formed to match it.

His comments chimed with the shocking revelation last week from Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov that Moscow’s support for Assad was “not unconditional.” The Kremlin’s support for Syria goes back decades (and it has not forgotten Assad’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008), but its economy has been battered by low oil prices and U.S. sanctions in response to its involvement in Ukraine’s war and the annexation of Crimea.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson enter a hall during their meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, April 12, 2017.ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP

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Moscow now finds itself in a curious position. It is unlikely to give up on its commitment to the region – and therefore lose face in a part of the world it knows well – but it does appear to be increasingly fed up with Assad. The chemical weapons attack in early April, which the West blames on Assad and the Syrian regime blames on the rebels, further deteriorated Russian-U.S. ties, and brought Russia and the West to the brink of another crisis (the U.K.’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson canceled his trip to Russia as a result of the chemical weapons attack). It also sparked Washington’s first direct military involvement in Syria, during which it fired 59 Tomahawk missiles on Shayrat air base last week, where both Syria and Russia keep planes. On Thursday, Assad told AFP that the claim that his government used chemical weapons is “100 percent fabrication.”
“If I were Putin, I would be livid with Assad for giving the Americans the excuse to go in,” said Amr Al-Azm, a member of the Syrian opposition and a professor of history at Shawnee State University in Ohio, “but being angry with him and walking out on Assad are two different things.”

Lavrov has asked for an independent investigation into the sarin gas attack that killed at least 90 people in Idlib province. For now, there is no real smoking gun. But if one that proves beyond doubt that Assad’s regime committed the attack is found, Russia will have cornered itself and will most likely need to act. “Are the Russians willing to make that sacrifice? Acting means either telling Assad they are withdrawing support or helping the opposition,” Al-Azm said, adding that the latter was out of the question. Since Syria’s civil war started six years ago, Moscow has provided refuge to several former members of Assad’s government, and is home to a small but lively pro-regime Syrian community. Some are given Russian visas and a right to stay; others live within a gray area without official status. (In contrast, Russia has taken in very few Syrian refugees, a move that continues to attract scorn from human rights groups.)

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Thursday’s admission by the Pentagon that the U.S.-backed coalition in Syria had mistakenly killed 18 members of a militia it supports was widely reported across Russian state media. Throughout Moscow’s military involvement in the Syrian conflict, Russia has taken to highlighting incompetent U.S. actions in the Middle East, often holding up the current situation in Iraq as an example of the failures of American democracy.

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It is worth noting that no Syria deals or steps forward can be made without the support of the region’s main actors: namely Iran, the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Moscow counts only two of them as allies and the others as mixed – and often as foes.

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This weekend Lavrov will host Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, whom he regularly speaks with by telephone. Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem will join them in a meeting Moscow has said will focus on coordinated trilateral efforts for a political settlement in Syria. But bringing all parties to the table – both Assad’s regime and the opposition – is a tall order and likely to be a long process. The country itself has become highly fractured and experts say it lacks little cohesive structure outside of Damascus. Putin’s leverage over Assad may not even be what he had at the beginning of Russia’s entrance into the conflict, and perhaps does not even amount to much now. This means Moscow may have aligned itself with players who have other agendas to pursue in Syria.

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“If Putin is unhappy finding himself in the company with Iran and Hezbollah, this still doesn’t mean that he may concede – he never does when there’s public pressure,” said Maria Lipman, a political analyst in Moscow and editor-in-chief of Counterpoint Journal, published by George Washington University. “Neither is a reliable partner.”

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read more: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/1.783432

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Assad Opponents Seek Justice for Syria’s War Victims

ISTANBUL — The evidence is staggering.

Three tons of captured Syrian government documents, providing a chilling and extensive catalog of the state’s war crimes, are held by a single organization in Europe. A Syrian police photographer fled with pictures of more than 6,000 dead at the hands of the state, many of them tortured. The smartphone alone has broken war’s barriers: Records of crimes are now so graphic, so immediate, so overwhelming.

Yet six years since the war began, this mountain of documentation — more perhaps than in any conflict before it — has brought little justice. The people behind the violence remain free, and there is no clear path to bring the bulk of the evidence before any court, anywhere.

More than 400,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war. Half the country’s population has been displaced. Syrian human rights groups list more than 100,000 people as missing, either detained or killed. Tens of thousands languish in government custody, where torture, deprivation, filth and overcrowding are so severe that a United Nations commission said they amounted to “extermination,” a crime against humanity.

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In Aleppo last July, Syrian civil defense workers rescued a young man from beneath the rubble of a building hit by airstrikes. CreditThaer Mohammed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But so far, there is only one war-crimes case pending against Syrian officials: filed in Spain, over a man who died in government custody.

No cases have gone to the International Criminal Court. Syria never joined it, so the court’s chief prosecutor cannot start an investigation on her own. The United Nations Security Council could refer a case to the court, but Russia has repeatedly used its veto power to shield Syria from international condemnation. And even if the Council were to take action, President Bashar al-Assad and his top officials are battened down in Damascus, making their arrests difficult, to say the least.

Earlier this month, the outside world was jolted by a chemical attack that killed more than 80 people. In response, President Trump let loose 59 Tomahawk missiles and called Mr. Assad an “animal.”

Victims of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. More than 80 people died, and President Trump responded with a hail of Tomahawk missiles. CreditAlaa Alyousef, via Associated Press

As Mr. Assad has consolidated his control of Syria’s major cities, some countries that have long opposed him have signaled a new willingness to accept his rule as the fastest way to end the war, encourage refugees to go home and accelerate the fight against the jihadists. As bad as Mr. Assad may be, some argue, Syria would be worse without him.

Mr. Assad’s opponents counter that keeping a head of state with so much blood on his hands perpetuates the war.

The chemical attack was just his most recent atrocity, after years of torture, enforced disappearances, siege warfare and indiscriminate bombing of civilian neighborhoods and hospitals. Such violence will continue as long as Mr. Assad and his security apparatus remain, his enemies say.

“This is not some abstract human rights issue,” said Laila Alodaat, a Syrian human rights lawyer at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. “This lies at the core of this conflict and of any possible solution or reconciliation. Hundreds of thousands of victims and their families need justice, remedy and assurance that the future will be free from such violations.”

Syria’s war has seen atrocities by all sides. Rebels have shelled civilian neighborhoods, and the jihadists of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have deployed suicide bombers, tortured enemies and executed prisoners, often in well-produced videos.

But the largest number of violations by far have been by the Syrian government and its allies, investigators say, because they wield the apparatus of the state, including a formal military with an air force, extensive security services and networks of prisons.

Read the rest: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/15/world/middleeast/syria-bashar-al-assad-evidence.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0