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Duterte refuses to cooperate with ICC probe

June 15, 2021

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says his country has its own systems in place to investigate claims of extrajudicial killing. His administration's crackdown on drugs has allegedly resulted in thousands of killings.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech at the presidential palace in Manila on July 3, 2020.
Duterte has been criticized by human rights groups for his controversial anti-drug crackdownImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division/A. Morandante

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will not comply with an independent probe led by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into his administration's controversial efforts to crack down on illegal drugs between 2016 and 2019, his spokesman said.

Tens of thousands of people have allegedly been killed as part of the campaign.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque called the ICC decision to launch a full-scale investigation into the killings "legally erroneous and politically motivated."

What is the latest?

ICC chief prosecutor Fataou Bensouda, who steps down on Tuesday after completing her nine-year term, said she had a reasonable basis to believe that "the crime against humanity of murder has been committed" between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019.

She also said that information gathered in an initial probe "indicates that members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians during that time."

The preliminary probe was conducted in February 2018. Now, Bensouda is seeking authorization for a full-scale investigation from the tribunal.

Duterte's administration refutes claim

Presidential spokesman Roque said that the ICC had no jurisdiction to conduct an investigation since the Philippines had withdrawn from the tribunal in March 2017.

"We don't need foreigners to investigate the killings in the drug war because the systems in the Philippines are working," Roque said, citing the 2019 conviction of police officers for the 2017 killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.

The Philippines officially quit the tribunal in March 2019, becoming the second nation to do so after Burundi.      

Filipinos seek justice

According to the ICC treaty, withdrawal of a member country does not "affect any cooperation with the Court in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings in relation to which the withdrawing." 

What about other independent probes?

The United Nations Human Rights Office published a report in June 2020 — based on court and police records, as well as interviews with victims and witnesses — in which it detailed widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity.

The government's heavy-handed focus on fighting illegal drugs led to numerous deaths, arbitrary detentions and a suppression of dissent, the report said.

Official figures show that more than 8,600 people have been killed, although some estimates put "the real toll at more than triple the number," it said.

rm/nm (AP, Reuters, dpa)