April 24, 2024

International probe into Philippines’ deadly ‘war on drugs’ can go ahead, court rules

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court ruled Tuesday that an investigation into the Philippines’ deadly “war on drugs” can resume, rejecting Manila’s objections to the case continuing at the world court.

The court’s inquiry was suspended in late 2021 after the Philippines said it was already investigating the same allegations and argued that the ICC – a court of last resort – therefore lacked jurisdiction.

The Philippines launched its appeal after judges in January agreed with the court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, that “postponing the investigation to Manila was not justified.” At the time, judges ruled that the domestic proceedings did not constitute “tangible, concrete and progressive steps of investigation in a manner that would adequately correspond to the court’s investigation.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Judge President Marc Perrin de Brichambaut said the five-judge appeals panel agreed, in a majority decision, and rejected the Philippines’ appeal.

More than 6,000 suspects, most of them people living in poverty, have been killed in the crackdown on drug crime, according to government announcements. Human rights groups say the death toll is much higher and should include many unsolved killings by motorcycle guns that may have been deployed by police.

Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has defended the crackdown, which has killed more than 6,000 people, as a law.
Mark R. Cristino/AFP via Getty Images file

Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defended the crackdown as “legally targeted against drug lords and pushers who have ruined this generation for years, especially the youth.”

Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the Hague-based court in 2019 in a move rights activists said was an attempt to avoid accountability and prevent an international investigation into the killings in his campaign against illegal drugs. However, the ICC still has jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed when the country was still a member state of the court.

The current Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said last year that Manila has no plans to rejoin the ICC, a decision that supported his predecessor’s position but defies the wishes of human rights activists.

“The decision of the ICC appeals chamber rejects the Philippine government’s claims that the ICC should not investigate in the country,” said Bryony Lau, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “President Marcos should support his commitment to human rights by cooperating with the ICC prosecutor’s investigation.”

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