The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday authorised a full investigation into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” for possible crimes against humanity.
In a statement, the ICC said that that judges had approved a request by prosecutors to begin the investigation after they found that specific legal element of crime against humanity has been met with respect to the killings committed throughout the Philippines.
Judges’ assessment of material presented by prosecutors, was that “the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation”, but rather amounted to a systematic attack on civilians.
Human rights groups accuse Duterte of inciting deadly violence and say police have murdered unarmed drug suspects on a massive scale as part of the campaign.
The Philippine police authorities denies the allegation and Duterte says the police are under orders to kill only in self-defence.
The government in Manila could not immediately be reached for a reaction late on Wednesday.
Philippines rights group Karapatan said the court’s comments “reaffirms the views of victims and their families”.
“Duterte and his cohorts should be made accountable for these crimes,” it said after the ICC decision.
In a July speech, Duterte lashed out at the court, saying he would continue his fight against drugs.
“I have never denied (it), and the ICC can record it: Those who destroy my country – I will kill you,” he said.
Although the Philippines has withdrawn from membership of the ICC, it was a member between July 2016 and March 2019, the period covered by the prospective investigation.
The judges said that relevant crimes appeared to have continued after that date, but that the court was limited to investigating those suspected to have occurred while the Philippines was a member. (Source: CNA)