ICC prosecutor to reopen Philippines ‘drug war’ investigation

At least 6,117 suspected drug dealers were killed in police encounters up to April 2021, according to government data.

President Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting in Davao city.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte shows a list of government officials and police officers who he alleged were involved in the illegal drug trade, during a press conference in Davao City, southern Philippines in 2017 [File: Toto Lozan/ EPA/Presidential photographer division handout]

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said he would seek to reopen an investigation into killings and other suspected human rights abuses during former Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs”.

According to Philippine government data released in June 2021, at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police encounters as of April 2021. Human rights groups and activists said the number could be as high as 30,000.

The international court suspended its investigation into Duterte’s drugs war in November at Manila’s request.

“After a careful and thorough review of all the information provided by the Philippines, as well as other information available publicly…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.

“I have informed the Philippine authorities of my intention to file today’s application,” Khan said.

“In my letter, 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.”

Duterte ran for president in 2016 on a single issue of fighting crime in the Philippines.

After taking office on June 30, 2016, Duterte immediately launched his deadly campaign against drugs, which was described by the country’s Catholic leaders as a “reign of terror”.

During his campaign and later on as president, he repeatedly urged police to “kill” drug suspects.  A report from the United Nations last year found thousands of people had been killed in anti-drug operations.

Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2018 and has repeatedly said his government will not cooperate with any investigation.

The ICC has jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed while the country was a member and up until 2019.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies