The International Criminal Court (ICC) granted its prosecutor’s request to open an investigation, within the jurisdiction of the Court, into alleged crimes committed in the Philippines during the “war on drugs”.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber authorized its prosecutor to investigate crimes reported in the Philippines between 2011 and 2019, allegedly committed as part of the country’s “war on drugs” – a policy put implemented by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The court statement notes that there is a reasonable basis to begin the investigation, particularly in relation to the murders that took place across the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019. “The so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign cannot be considered a legitimate law enforcement operation,” the statement reads, adding that the deaths cannot be considered as “Legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation”.
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The ICC claims that the available evidence suggests that this was a “Widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population” which was only intended to advance state policy.
While Manila has long criticized the ICC and withdrew from the Court in 2018, the withdrawal only entered into force on March 17, 2019. As such, the Court’s investigation will examine the alleged crimes that occurred on the ICC. territory during its accession, from 2011 to 2019.
In June, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said a preliminary investigation into the killings had been completed and there had been a “Reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed” between July 1, 2016 – one day after Duterte began his presidency – and the day after the Philippines officially left the ICC in 2019.
Duterte and his government have repeatedly rejected the authority of the ICC. After Bensouda’s remarks in June, the president’s spokesman Harry Roque said: “We don’t need aliens to investigate the murders in the war on drugs because the legal system works in the Philippines,” adding that the movement was “Legally wrong” and was “politically motivated.
Officially, Philippine security forces claim to have killed 6,165 suspected drug traffickers during operations. However, some human rights activists claim the total is several times higher.
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