Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has said he would cut off contact with the International Criminal Court (ICC) after it rejected an appeal asking it to stop investigating his predecessor’s lethal war on drugs.
Thousands of Filipinos, mainly low-level dealers and users, were killed by police during previous president Rodrigo Duterte’s fierce crackdown on illicit drugs, with many more gunned down in mysterious circumstances.
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The ICC is investigating widespread allegations by human rights groups and victims of systematic executions and cover-ups by police, who say they killed suspects only in self-defence.
“That ends all our involvement with the ICC,” Marcos told reporters when asked about the appeal, which was rejected this week.
“At this point, we essentially are disengaging from any contact, any communication.”
Marcos Jr noted that his government has not been cooperating with the ICC in the case so far, but is merely commenting on the state of the procedure into the controversial anti-drugs campaign.
“We ended up in the same position that we started with, and that is we cannot cooperate with the ICC, considering the very serious questions about their jurisdiction, and about what we consider to be interference and practically attacks on the sovereignty of the republic,” he said.
The ICC is a court of last resort that can exercise jurisdiction if states are unable or unwilling to investigate crimes.
The Philippines has argued its own institutions are capable of prosecuting crimes.
Police said more than 6,000 people were killed in operations against illegal drugs during Duterte’s administration. But human rights groups have alleged that the death toll could be three times higher.
As international criticism mounted, Duterte unilaterally withdrew the Philippines from the ICC’s founding treaty in 2018. The treaty stipulates the ICC can investigate crimes that took place while a country was a member.
The court in January granted its prosecutor’s request to reopen an investigation into the killings, having suspended the probe in November 2021 at Manila’s request after it said it was carrying out its own investigations.
Duterte has repeatedly said he gave no instruction to kill, other than in self-defence. He has said he is willing to go on trial over his drugs war, but only in a Philippine court.
His daughter, Sara Duterte, is currently vice president and was the running mate of Marcos.