The International Criminal Court has said it will reopen its investigation into possible “crimes against humanity” in the Philippines over former president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, which led to the deaths of thousands of people.
The Hague-based court announced plans for an investigation in February 2018 but suspended its work in November 2021 at the request of the Philippines’ government after Manila said it was undertaking its own review.
Last June, having considered the files submitted by the authorites in the Philippines and others, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said the delay was not warranted and filed an application to reopen the ICC case.
The court has since been examining submissions from the Philippines, the prosecutor and victims. In a statement on Thursday, the ICC said it was “not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations”.
The statement added: “The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the Court’s investigation.”
Duterte, a former mayor of the southern city of Davao who campaigned for office on a platform of fighting crime, launched his “war on drugs” as soon as he took office in June 2016, and repeatedly urged police to “kill” drug suspects.
A United Nations report in 2021 found that 8,663 people had been killed in anti-drug operations but the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines and local human rights groups say the toll could be as much as three times higher.
Human Rights Watch says it found evidence that police were falsifying evidence to justify unlawful killings, with Duterte continuing the “large-scale extrajudicial violence as a crime solution”, which he had established during his 22 years running Davao.
Duterte announced in March 2018 that he would withdraw the Philippines from the ICC – a decision that took effect a year later – and that his government would not cooperate with any investigation.
The court has jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed up until March 2019 when the Philippines’s withdrawal became official.
Presidents in the Philippines can serve only one six-year term and Duterte was replaced by Ferdinand Marcos Jr last year. Marcos Jr has said he will continue the “war on drugs” but with a focus on rehabilitation.
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