ICC Opens Investigation into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorized on Sept. 15 a full investigation into Philippine Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” that has killed thousands of Filipinos.

ICC announced that there was “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, and that the case appears to fall within the jurisdiction of the Court” despite the fact that the Philippines left the court in 2019 after a preliminary investigation into the deadly anti-drug campaign.

ICC said that it retained jurisdiction to investigate the alleged crimes in the Philippines because they were committed at the time when the country was still a state party to the court.

The Hague-based court will focus on the period from 2016, when Duterte became president, through March 2019, when the Philippines withdrew from the ICC.

ICC will also cover the period from 2011 to 2016 when Duterte was the mayor of Davao City, where the so-called Davao Death Squad also allegedly carried out killings under the anti-drug campaign.

According to the ICC, the anti-drug campaign “cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation” and that the killings also cannot be considered “legitimate” or “mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation.”

According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, 6,117 people have died under the anti-drug campaign. However, human rights groups warn that the actual death toll could be higher.

“The Chamber further considers that the supporting material establishes, to the required standard, that the attack against the civilian population was widespread and systematic,” ICC said.

ICC also noted that Duterte “has publicly encouraged extrajudicial killings in a way that is incompatible with a genuine law enforcement operation.”

On Sept. 16, Duterte’s Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said that the Philippines will not cooperate with the ICC’s investigation.


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