Philippines’ Duterte hit by new ICC complaint over deadly drugs war

Duterte unilaterally withdrew from the ICC’s founding treaty in March. (File Photo: AP)
Updated 28 August 2018
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Philippines’ Duterte hit by new ICC complaint over deadly drugs war

  • The ICC petition, formally referred to as a communication, follows a similar complaint filed in April 2017 by a Filipino lawyer
  • The latest move is led by a network of activists, priests and members of the urban poor communities that have borne the brunt of Duterte’s crackdown

MANILA: Activists and families of eight victims of the Philippines’ “war on drugs” filed a complaint on Tuesday with the International Criminal Court (ICC), a second petition accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of murder and crimes against humanity.
The 50-page complaint calls for Duterte’s indictment for what it describes as thousands of extrajudicial killings, which include “brazen” executions by police acting with impunity.
Critics of Duterte’s fierce anti-narcotics campaign were being “persecuted,” it said, and cases filed by the victims’ families had gone nowhere.
The ICC petition, formally referred to as a communication, follows a similar complaint filed in April 2017 by a Filipino lawyer, into which the ICC in February started a preliminary examination.
The latest move is led by a network of activists, priests and members of the urban poor communities that have borne the brunt of Duterte’s crackdown. The complaint includes testimony from six relatives of eight people killed by police.
“Duterte is personally liable for ordering state police to undertake mass killings,” Neri Colmenares, a lawyer representing the group, told reporters, moments after he said the complaint had been sent to the ICC.
Duterte says he has told police to kill only if their lives were in danger. In his annual address to the nation last month, he said the drugs war would be as “relentless and chilling” as its first two years.
Police say the more than 4,400 killed over that time were dealers who had all resisted arrest, and deny activists’ allegations of cover-ups and executions of drug users.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday the latest ICC petition was “doomed,” and “would not prosper,” because the Philippines’ had pulled out of the Rome Statute.
The ICC prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment and could not be reached out of normal office hours.
Duterte unilaterally withdrew from the ICC’s founding treaty in March, saying the court had not followed due process and presumption of his innocence, in actions that were compounded by “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” by UN officials.
It was a stark contrast from the previous 18 months, when the popular former mayor had repeatedly dared the ICC to investigate him and expressed his readiness to go on trial in The Hague.
The Supreme Court was due to hear oral arguments later on Tuesday in a separate complaint by some opposition lawmakers challenging the legality of Duterte’s withdrawal, which was done without Senate approval. The government’s lawyer will argue that is not required.
Jurist groups say Duterte is not protected from indictment, because the ICC’s jurisdiction covers the period of membership, which in the Philippines’ case is from 2011 to March 2019, when the withdrawal takes effect.
The ICC is a court of last resort that can exercise jurisdiction if states are unable or unwilling to investigate crimes. The Philippines government says domestic courts are capable and independent.
Benigno Durana, a national police spokesman, said on Tuesday that the only order Duterte gave to police was “to wage war on drugs and criminality within the bounds of the law.”


New Zealand crews reenter coal mine 8 years after 29 killed

This handout photo from the Pike River Family Reference Group taken on and recieved by AFP on May 21, 2019 shows family members and workers hugging after the re-opening of the entrance to the Pike River Mine where 29 miners lost their lives in an explosion in 2010 in the north west of the South Island of New Zealand. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2019
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New Zealand crews reenter coal mine 8 years after 29 killed

  • The plan won’t allow access into the inner workings of the mine, which are blocked by a massive rockfall

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Crews in New Zealand on Tuesday reentered an underground coal mine where a methane explosion killed 29 workers more than eight years ago, raising hopes among family members that they might find bodies and new evidence that leads to criminal charges.
Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton was killed in the explosion, said the families had been fighting for this ever since the Pike River mine exploded.
“We did it. We won,” she said.
She said it had been a “hugely emotional” day for the families and it was a moving experience to watch people going back into the mine. She said they hope the crews can recover electronic equipment that indicates what went wrong, much like the black box in a plane.
“The families are all hoping that the team going in, with their forensic expertise, will find new evidence for future prosecutions against those who allowed the mine to blow up in first place,” she said.
Nigel Hampton, a lawyer who is acting for the families, said that if they discover what ignited the methane, it could help link acts of negligence with the deaths of the miners and result in charges such as manslaughter.
“There’s still a long way to go yet, but it’s possible,” he said.
Two workers escaped the mine after the deadly November 2010 explosion. After several more explosions, the mine was sealed shut with a concrete barrier.
New Zealand’s previous conservative government concluded the mine remained too unsafe to reenter. But the liberal government elected in 2017, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, reconsidered.
“New Zealand is not a country where 29 people can die at work without real accountability,” said Andrew Little, the minister responsible for Pike River reentry. “That is not who we are. And that is why today we have fulfilled our promise. Today we have returned.”
The plan won’t allow access into the inner workings of the mine, which are blocked by a massive rockfall. It remains unclear how many miners were on either side of the rockfall at the time of the explosion or how many bodies might be recovered.
New Zealand police said they’ll be examining any new evidence from the mine, which they could use to file charges.
An earlier investigation concluded the Pike River Coal company had exposed miners to unacceptable risks as it strove to meet financial targets. The report found the company ignored 21 warnings that methane gas had accumulated to explosive levels before the disaster.
The company, which went bankrupt, didn’t contest labor violation charges against it.
Labor violation charges against former chief executive Peter Whittall were dismissed after he and the company made a financial settlement, a development which angered many of the grieving families. New Zealand’s Supreme Court later ruled the settlement was unlawful.
Whittall moved to Australia about five years ago.