ICC Formally Opens Investigation On President Duterte’s Anti-Drug War

Headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands. IMG Source Marina Riera/Human Rights Watch

MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorized a formal investigation into the killings in the Philippines’ war on drugs. The highly controversial anti-drug war of the Duterte administration has drawn international outrage for years.

This now represents a dramatic turn for the bloody crackdown. Official counts estimate that over 6,000 Filipinos have been killed in state-sanctioned anti-drug operations. However, numerous human rights organizations estimate that the number may be much higher than what was initially reported.

ICC investigators will focus on the period from July 2016, the day after President Duterte was sworn into office, until the 19th of March 2019, the day after the Philippines withdrew from the ICC. Additionally, the investigation will also delve into the killings by the so-called Davao Death Squad. This period occurred from November 2011 until June 2016, when Duterte was still the mayor of Davao City.

“For these reasons, the chamber hereby authorizes the commencement of the investigation into the Situation in the Philippines, in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign.”

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President Duterte has belittled the ICC from the time it first began considering an investigation into his anti-drug campaign. The Philippines formally exited the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, on March 16, 2019. Duterte has also accused the ICC of meddling in the internal affairs of the Philippines and has vowed to bar investigators from entering the country.

“President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly encouraged extrajudicial killings in a way that is incompatible with a genuine law enforcement operation. Rather, they indicate a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.”

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The launch of the investigation was signed by Judge Péter Kovács, Presiding Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou, and Judge María del Socorro Flores Liera.

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