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ICC cleared to proceed with investigation into Philippines ‘war on drugs’

Clyde Hughes, Tue, July 18, 2023

July 18 (UPI) — The International Criminal Court’s appeals chamber said on Tuesday that an investigation into former President Rodrigo Duterte administration’s “war on drugs” can move forward.

The appeals court ruled 3-2 in favor of continuing the investigation, rejecting the government’s attempt to block the probe into the campaign where critics charged that authorities participated in the killing of alleged drug leaders and others under the approval of Duterte while he served as president and earlier while mayor of Davao City.

In January, the ICC initiated an investigation into the government’s war on drugs after the Philippines government’s promise to do its own investigation did “not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps.”

“The ICC appeals chamber decision rejects Philippine government claims that the ICC should not investigate in the country,” Bryony Lau, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “President [Ferdinand] Marcos should back up his stated commitment to human rights by cooperating with the ICC prosecutor’s inquiry.”

Officials said 6,252 people died during the drug crackdown under Duterte’s presidency, but rights groups say that up to 30,000 may have been killed, including innocent victims.

“[Victim families] look forward to the ICC indicting the ‘most responsible’ — the masterminds and administrators of a cruel and criminal government policy that targeted killing thousands of poor people,” said the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and the Rise Up for Life and for Rights, a coalition representing the families of alleged victims.

The Philippine government argued that ICC judges mistakenly found that the court has jurisdiction and that they erred in assessing ongoing national proceedings.

The ICC said in January that it would resume its investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines in Duterte’s war on drugs. The Hague had temporarily suspended its investigation in November 2021 after Manila requested a deferral to conduct its own review.

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