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Philippines: ICC reopens probe into Manila's 'war on drugs'

January 26, 2023

Thousands were killed in an anti-drug crackdown during ex-President Rodrigo Duterte's tenure. International Criminal Court judges said the court was not satisfied with steps taken in Manila's own investigations.

International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands
The International Criminal Court said that it was allowing Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume invsetigations into Manila's war on drugsImage: Peter Dejong/AP Photo/picture alliance

The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Thursday that it had authorized the reopening of an investigation into rights abuses under former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Thousands were killed in an anti-drug crackdown during Duterte's tenure.

Duterte's successor, President Ferdinand Marcos, has pledged to continue the Philippines' drug war. He has ruled out joining the ICC.

Why are investigations into Duterte's drug crackdown being reopened?

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan asked judges for permission last year to reactivate a probe into alleged crimes against humanity between November 2011 and March 2019 linked to the crackdown under Duterte.

Investigations were suspended in 2021 after Manila said it had launched its own probe, arguing that the ICC no longer had jurisdiction. 

Duterte had pulled the Philippines out of the Hague-based tribunal in 2019 after it began a preliminary probe into the clampdown.

A panel of ICC judges on Thursday agreed with Khan that the deferral to Philippine authorities was "not warranted."

"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," judges found.

The panel said that the ICC was "not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court's investigations."

More than 6,000 drug suspects have been killed in the crackdown, according to the government of the Philippines. Rights groups claim the toll is much higher and have accused law enforcement of acting with impunity.

Duterte has defended the crackdown as "lawfully directed against drug lords and pushers who have for many years destroyed the present generation, especially the youth.''

Earlier this month, the Philippine interior secretary accused hundreds of top police officers of being involved in the drug trade and asked them to resign.

sdi/nm (AFP, AP, Reuters)