THE HAGUE – International Criminal Court judges on Thursday cleared the way for the court's prosecution office to resume its investigation into the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines.
Prosecutor Karim Khan asked judges for permission last year to reactivate his inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity between Nov. 1, 2011, and March 16, 2019, which were linked to the deadly crackdown.
The investigation was suspended in late 2021 after the Philippines said it already was examining the crimes and argued that the ICC — a court of last resort — therefore didn't have jurisdiction.
Khan argued last year that he should be allowed to reopen the ICC investigation, saying Manila's request for the case to be deferred to authorities there “is not warranted.”
A panel of judges agreed in their ruling on Thursday, after examining information from the Philippine government and Khan, and weighing comments from victims.
“The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the court’s investigation," the judges said.
More than 6,000 drug suspects, most of them people who lived in poverty, have been killed, according to government pronouncements. Human rights groups say the death toll is considerably higher and should include many unsolved killings by motorcycle-riding gunmen who may have been deployed by police.
Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has defended the crackdown as “lawfully directed against drug lords and pushers who have for many years destroyed the present generation, especially the youth.”
Duterte openly threatened drug suspects with death and ordered police to shoot suspects who dangerously resisted arrest, but he has denied condoning extrajudicial killings.
Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, called the ICC investigation “the only credible avenue for justice for the victims and their families” of the crackdown.