The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has approved a formal investigation into possible crimes against humanity during the war on drugs by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The court announced this on Wednesday.
The drug policy in the Southeast Asian country does not appear legitimate or lawful, but “a systematic attack on civilians”, the judges involved conclude on the basis of preliminary investigations by prosecutors. The ICC has now authorized the accuser to open an investigation.
Duterte has been under fire for some time for his war on drugs. Human rights groups suspect him of inciting deadly violence and the police of mass murder of unarmed drug suspects. Duterte has denied approving extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, although he has openly ordered police to shoot suspects who resist arrest.
‘Policy aimed at drug lords’
The Philippines was a member of the ICC from 2016 to 2019. That is also the period that will be investigated, although the judges suspect that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Philippines after that time. Duterte withdrew his country from the ICC over what he believed to be “baseless, unprecedented, excessive” attacks on him and the Philippines. He has defended his policy in the past, saying that it is aimed “against drug lords who for years have destroyed the current generation, especially the youth.”
According to the government, Duterte’s drug policies have killed more than 6,000 people, but Human Rights Watch estimates the death toll has doubled. The human rights organization reacted with ecstasy on Wednesday to the formal commitment to investigate “the brutal crimes” in the Philippines, the AP news agency reported.
Also read: Why the Philippines is withdrawing from the ICC