ICC prosecutor seeks to resume Philippines drug war probe

Karim Khan says a request by Manila to defer the probe was unjustified


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Activists take part in a rally after 91 people were shot dead in 2017 in an escalation of war on drugs. — Reuters file
Activists take part in a rally after 91 people were shot dead in 2017 in an escalation of war on drugs. — Reuters file

Published: Fri 24 Jun 2022, 8:31 PM

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor on Friday said he intends to resume his probe into the Philippine’s deadly drug war, saying a request by Manila to defer the probe was unjustified.

Karim Khan, the prosecutor at the Hague-based court, had suspended the ICC investigation in November 2021 after the Philippines said it would look into the allegations itself.

The announcement comes days before outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte steps down after six years in power, characterised by his shoot-to-kill policy to rid the country of drugs.

“I have concluded that the deferral requested by the Philippines is not warranted, and that the investigation should resume as quickly as possible,” Khan said in a statement from The Hague.

Khan said he had asked judges at the court for authorisation to restart the probe.

“In short, the deferral of the ICC investigation requested by the Philippines is not justified,” he added.


The ICC authorised a full-blown investigation into the Philippines anti-narcotics campaign in September 2021, saying it resembled an illegitimate and systematic attack on civilians.

Rights groups say Duterte created a climate of impunity and estimate that tens of thousands have been killed by police, hitmen and vigilantes, even without proof they were involved in drugs.

The ICC, which only gets involved if member states are unable or unwilling to investigate, suspended the probe two months later after Manila said it was looking into the alleged crimes.

But Khan said on Friday that most of the details provided by the Philippines “do not seek to establish criminal responsibility and therefore cannot warrant deferral of the ICC’s criminal investigation”.

Proceedings mentioned by the Philippines also “fail to sufficiently mirror the authorised ICC investigation”, he said.

Under pressure from the UN Human Rights Council and the ICC, the government has examined around 300 cases of drug operations that led to deaths.

Only three policemen have been convicted for slaying a drug suspect.

“With a handful of exceptions, the Philippine government has failed to provide any documentation to substantiate that the investigations are ongoing or complete, nor any details regarding concrete investigative or prosecutorial steps that have been taken,” Khan said.

Duterte has refused to cooperate with the court — which was set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes — claiming it has no jurisdiction.

He then pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2019 after it launched a preliminary investigation into his drugs crackdown.

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