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The Philippine president's war on drugs
02:34 - Source: CNN

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Friday he would seek to reopen an investigation into killings and other suspected rights abuses during former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs.

The court had suspended the investigation in November at Manila’s request, with Philippine officials citing their own investigations into the killings. Governments can ask the ICC to defer a case if they are implementing their own probes and prosecutions for the same acts.

“After a careful and thorough review of all the information provided by the Philippines, as well as other information available publicly … I have concluded that the deferral requested by the Philippines is not warranted, and that the investigation should resume as quickly as possible,” Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement.

According to Philippine government data, security forces killed 6,117 drug dealers in sting operations from the time Duterte took office in 2016 until the end of April 2021.

Rights groups say authorities have summarily executed drug suspects, but police say drug dealers fought back violently.

Former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who stepped down last year, had said during her tenure there were reasonable grounds to believe crimes against humanity had been committed during Duterte’s anti-narcotics crackdown, whose death toll has stirred international outrage.

Duterte’s administration had pushed back against rights groups’ claims and the ICC’s investigation, saying the Philippines was no longer a member. Duterte canceled the Philippines’ membership of the ICC’s founding treaty in March 2018.

But under the ICC’s withdrawal mechanism, the court keeps jurisdiction over crimes committed during the membership period of a state – in this case, between 2016 and 2019, when the Philippines’ pullout became official.