ICC prosecutor: examination of Philippines continues despite withdrawal

More than 5,000 suspected drug dealers have been killed in police anti-narcotics operations since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016. (AP)
Updated 19 March 2019

ICC prosecutor: examination of Philippines continues despite withdrawal

  • Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda: ICC continues to have jurisdiction over possible crimes committed during the period the country was a member
  • The ICC procedure was ‘political persecution’ of Duterte, presidential spokesperson said

AMSTERDAM/MANILA: The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor said on Monday her examination into possible crimes against humanity committed in the Philippines would go on, despite its withdrawal from the court.
The Philippines’ withdrawal from the Hague court was formalized on Sunday.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement the ICC continued to have jurisdiction over possible crimes committed during the period the country was a member.
Bensouda has been examining whether thousands of extrajudicial killings allegedly committed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs are sufficient to warrant a formal investigation.
Duterte’s spokesman said the ICC had no basis to continue its preliminary examination and the government would not cooperate with it.
“They cannot enter here if that is their purpose, to investigate. You are already intruding into our sovereignty,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular news conference on Tuesday.
More than 5,000 suspected drug dealers have been killed in police anti-narcotics operations since Duterte took office in June 2016.
Rights groups and critics say some of the killings were summary executions. Police deny such allegations, saying they had to use deadly force because the suspects were armed and resisted arrest.
The Philippines unilaterally withdrew from the ICC in March 2018 over what Duterte called “outrageous” attacks and violations of due process by it.
“We have already pointed out that in this country we have a judicial system that is robust and functional and very effective,” Panelo said.
The ICC procedure was “political persecution” of Duterte, he said.

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 1 min 38 sec ago

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services
  • Sri Lankan police chief warned of planned attacks by radical Muslim group on ‘prominent churches’ 10 days before deadly blasts

COLOMBO: At least 156 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.

A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among those killed in the six blasts, which also injured hundreds of people.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The public has been told to excercise caution in the following days, with emergency numbers being circulated for people who want to seek help.

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a church in Colombo — and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.

An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine, and described “horrible scenes.” “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added. Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.