Faced with ICC investigation, Duterte defends Philippine war on drugs before United Nations General Assembly – benarnews


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defended his controversial war on drugs at the United Nations General Assembly, a week after the Hague-based International Criminal Court approved an investigation into the murderous campaign.

The Southeast Asian ruler also appeared to target China, not to name the superpower, when he said no nation, however influential, could ignore Manila’s 2016 victory over Beijing in a international arbitration in the disputed South China Sea.

In what appeared to be a concession to the demands of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Duterte said in a pre-recorded video speech that he ordered a government investigation into the questionable deaths in his drug campaign, but also said his administration had the right to uphold the rule of law.

“We will treat all criminals, including terrorists, with the full force of our laws,” Duterte said in his presidency’s last speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday morning (Manila time).

“I have asked the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police to review the conduct of our campaign against illegal drugs. Those who acted beyond limits during operations will be held accountable to our laws. “

Duterte’s lawyer said last week that the president would not cooperate with the ICC on the investigation because a “foreign institution” lacked jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation.

The Philippines has not been a member of the ICC since 2019, when Duterte withdrew the country from the treaty, but the ICC’s investigation includes the time she was a member.

Rights groups as well as the UN have criticized Duterte’s war on drugs for its use of lethal force in official law enforcement operations and alleged extrajudicial killings, often carried out by masked assassins.

The majority of the victims of his war on drugs were poor people living in slums or working-class neighborhoods. Some of them were minors, including young children hit by stray bullets.

The ICC judges had said that the Philippine authorities “had not taken significant steps to investigate or prosecute the killings”, noting that only one case had resulted in convictions.

On Wednesday, a human rights researcher said that out of thousands of questionable killings, only one case had been fully investigated, leading to the jail of three police officers.

“A large majority of these cases have not been investigated, the police unwilling and unable to continue their investigations, while the families of the victims are afraid or too poor to file a complaint”, Carlos Conde, the Filipino researcher for the New York-based agency Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“The importance of the arbitration award”

While Duterte in his speech aimed at the UN – saying it was outdated and in need of reform – he also said he believed the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was showing the way to a solution on the disputed South China Sea issue.

In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague dismissed China’s comprehensive claims over the South China Sea region as invalid under UNCLOS because it ruled in favor of the Philippines in a case brought. by Manila against Beijing.

UNCLOS and the arbitration award “open a clear path to a fair, equitable and win-win solution for all,” Duterte told the General Assembly.

“The price must be seen for what it is – a general benefit for all who subscribe to the majesty of the law,” he said.

“No willful contempt on the part of a country, however great and powerful it may be, can diminish the importance of the arbitral award. “

Manila and Beijing have had several verbal feuds – including this year – over China’s alleged transgressions in the Philippine waters of the South China Sea.

In March, security officials in Manila reported that around 220 ships, some of which they said were piloted by Chinese maritime militias, had anchored in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Since taking office five years ago and within a year of his tenure expiring, Duterte has faced criticism at home for not doing enough to push through the 2016 decision.

In his first address to the General Assembly last September, he vigorously defended the Hague tribunal‘s decision, but said months later that the Philippines could do nothing if China chose to ignore the arbitration award.

But earlier this week, the top Philippine diplomat said Manila supports a new defense pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia because it addresses a military “imbalance” in South Asia. -East.

Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. did not name any country responsible for the so-called imbalance, but he was probably referring to China.

“There is an imbalance in the forces available to ASEAN member states, with the main balancer being over half of the world,” Locsin said of the Association of South Asian Nations. -East.

Duterte told the General Assembly that the Philippines was “one with ASEAN and other stakeholders to ensure that the South China Sea remains a sea of ​​peace, security and prosperity.”

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