Lewis to President Duterte: Release so-called phone conversation

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) — New York City-based Filipino American civic leader and philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis had challenged President Rody Duterte to release the voice print of an alleged tapped telephone conversation she had with International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensuada that they conspired in filing the case of crimes against humanity and mass murders against him.

In a Facebook post, Lewis of the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance wrote Friday, March 23, that President Duterte has revived his accusations against her “with the same bogus, fake news.”

“Once and for all, the truth will be known and he should then stop these false allegations against me,” she said.

President Duterte mentioned Lewis in his speech at the general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) last Tuesday, March 20.

In a Facebook video clip going the rounds on the Internet, Duterte is seen claiming that he has transcripts of conversations of Lewis and Bensouda. He said that the transcripts came from an article written by a German weekly newspaper, Der Spiegel (The Mirror), based in Hamburg, Germany. Lewis had earlier described the video clip conspiracy charges report as “fake news.”

A check by philamessenger.com on the Der Spiegel online English international edition has not shown the existence of an article about the claims. Both the Der Spiegel and Bensouda could not be reached for comment.

PH withdraws from the ICC

Meanwhile, on March 19, the ICC was officially notified by the United Nations (UN) that the Philippines had deposited a written notification of withdrawal from the Rome Statute, ICC’s founding treaty, with the UN Secretary-General as the depositary of the Statute. ICC regretted this development and encouraged the Philippines to remain part of the ICC family.

In a press statement posted on its website, the ICC said that withdrawing from the Rome Statute is a sovereign decision and becomes effective a year after receipt of the withdrawal. It added that it has no impact on on-going proceedings or any matter which was already under consideration by the ICC prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective; nor on the status of any judge already serving at the Court.

ICC has reaffirmed that the participation of States in the Rome Statute and their continued support for the ICC in the discharge of its independent and impartial mandate is essential to global efforts to ensure accountability and strengthen the international rule of law.

ICC has galvanized national and international efforts

According to ICC, the Rome Statute system, with the ICC at its center, has judicially addressed and galvanized national and international efforts to address the most serious crimes under international law such as the use of child soldiers, sexual violence in conflict, torture, willful killing and the destruction of cultural heritage.

The statement further said that ICC remains fully committed to its independent mandate to help end impunity in a complementary manner with States and in so doing, contribute to the prevention of future atrocities.

“States’ participation in the Rome Statute ought not only to be maintained and reinforced but enlarged,” the statement continued.

Preliminary examination

The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute on August 30, 2011, and the Statute entered into force from November 1, 2011.

The preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines was announced by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC on Feb. 8, 2018. According to ICC, it will analyze crimes allegedly committed since at least July 1, 2016, “in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ campaign launched by the Government of the Philippines”.

It has been alleged that since July 1, 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing. While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extra-judicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations.

A preliminary examination is not an investigation

However, ICC said that a preliminary examination is not an investigation. It is an initial step to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation. The Prosecutor must consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice in making this determination.

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) conducts a preliminary examination to decide whether there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation. In undertaking such role, the ICC said that:

  • national jurisdictions have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute those responsible for international crimes
  • the Prosecutor will engage with the national authorities concerned with a view to discussing and assessing any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level
  • the Prosecutor will also give consideration to all submissions and views conveyed to it during the course of each preliminary examination, strictly guided by the requirements of the Rome Statute
  • at the conclusion of the preliminary examination process, should the Prosecutor decide to proceed with an investigation, authorization from a Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court would be required
  • the Court’s judges would then make an independent assessment as to whether the statutory criteria for the opening of an investigation are met.

OTP’s work

The OTP conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecution of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Office has been conducting investigations in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two separate investigations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Georgia.

The OTP is also conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Afghanistan; Burundi; the registered vessels of Comoros, Greece, and Cambodia; Colombia; Gabon; Guinea; Iraq/UK; Palestine, Nigeria, and Ukraine.

There are now 11 countries under investigation.

Out of the 40 cases so far tried by the ICC since July 1, 2002, when the Rome Statute came to force, 13 cases had been closed; 11 defendants are at large; three defendants are in custody; three are not in custody; seven were convicted and one was acquitted.

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