ICC set to begin probe of alleged crimes committed under Duterte's war on drugs campaign

Published September 16, 2021, 6:06 AM

by Roy Mabasa

The Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has granted the request of its prosecutor to begin a probe on the alleged crimes related to extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, including the hundreds of deaths that occurred under the controversial war-on-drugs campaign of the Duterte administration.


In a statement Wednesday night, the ICC said the investigation will cover crimes allegedly committed between November 1, 2011 and March 2019 “in the context of the so-called war on drugs campaign”.

On 14 June 2021, then outgoing ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda filed a public redacted version of the request to open an investigation requesting authorization to commence an investigation into the situation in the Philippines.

According to the ICC, Pre-Trial Chamber I composed of Judge Péter Kovács, Presiding Judge, Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou and Judge María del Socorro Flores Liera, examined the Prosecutor’s request and supporting material.

The Chamber considered the representations made by 204 victims of the alleged crimes in the Philippines that were received by the body.

“In accordance with Article 15(4) of the Statute, the Chamber found that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, noting that specific legal element of the crime against humanity of murder under Article 7(1)(a) of the Statute has been met with respect to the killings committed throughout the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign, as well as with respect to the killings in the Davao area between 1 November 2011 and 30 June 2016,” the ICC said in a statement posted on its website.

Based on the facts as they emerge at the present stage and subject to proper investigation and further analysis, the Chamber emphasized that the so-called war on drugs campaign “cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation”.

“Rather, the available material indicates, to the required standard, that a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population took place pursuant to or in furtherance of a State policy, within the meaning of Article 7(1) and (2)(a) of the Statute.”

The Philippines, a State party to the Rome Statute since November 1, 2011, withdrew its membership from the Statute on March 17, 2018 on orders of President Duterte.

The ICC maintained that while the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Statute took effect on March 17, 2019, the Court retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that occurred on the territory of the Philippines while it was a State Party, from November 1, 2011 up to and including March 16, 2019.

“While the relevant crimes appear to have continued after this date, the Chamber noted that alleged crimes identified in the Article 15(3) Request are limited to those during the period when the Philippines was a State Party to the Statute and was bound by its provisions,” it said.

The ICC has yet to set the date of the official start of the investigation.