The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested to reopen an investigation into killings and suspected human rights abuses committed under Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” campaign.
The ICC probe was suspended in November last year after the Philippine government requested a deferral and pledged to undertake its own investigations into the alleged abuses.
“I have concluded that the deferral requested by the Philippines is not warranted, and that the investigation should resume as quickly as possible,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement on Friday.
Khan stated that the government had failed to offer any documentation that the investigations were ongoing or complete, as well as information regarding concrete investigations or prosecution actions.
“Under the Rome Statute’s core principle of complementarity, States always have the first opportunity to investigate allegations of such crimes committed on their territory or by their nationals,” he said.
“However, when national authorities fail to act, the court must step in, and that is why I have filed today’s application.”
Khan said that he had informed Philippine authorities of his intention to reopen a probe into Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of suspected drug peddlers.
“I made clear—and I repeat here now—that I remain ready and willing to continue the productive dialogue we have had since November 2021, and to explore ways in which, moving forward, we can effectively cooperate to deliver justice to victims in the Philippines,” he said.
Philippines Withdrawal From ICC
The Philippine palace has said in April that the ICC lacks jurisdiction to probe the government’s anti-drug campaign, citing the country’s “functional” criminal justice system and “impartial” legal institutions.
The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC on March. 17, 2019 after the then-ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda initiated preliminary investigations into Duterte’s anti-drug campaign for suspected human rights abuses.
Despite the country’s withdrawal, Khan said in a statement last year that the ICC “retains jurisdiction” over alleged crimes that occurred while the Philippines was a State Party from Nov. 1, 2011, up to March. 16, 2019.
Duterte’s Anti-Drug Campaign
Duterte was elected in 2016 on a promise to eradicate drugs in the Philippines. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Duterte’s anti-drug campaign has resulted in the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos, with the Philippine National Police being responsible for 2,555 of these deaths.
HRW detailed in its 2017 report instances of the Philippine police “falsifying evidence to justify unlawful killings,” claiming that most drug-related killings victims were poor people and suspected drug users rather than dealers.
“No evidence thus far shows that Duterte planned or ordered specific extrajudicial killings. But Duterte’s repeated calls for killings as part of his anti-drug campaign could constitute acts instigating law enforcement to commit the crime of murder,” it stated.