THE HAGUE – The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday that she has sought authorization to open an investigation into the Philippine government’s deadly crackdown on drug crime.
Fatou Bensouda said that a preliminary probe she opened in February 2018 “determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed” in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019, the date the Philippines withdrew from the court.
The suspected crimes happened “in the context of the government of Philippines ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” Bensouda said in a statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced in March 2018 that the Philippines was withdrawing its ratification of the treaty that created the ICC. The decision came into force a year later.
But Bensouda stressed that the court still has jurisdiction over crimes that allegedly happened while the country was still a member of the court.
Bensouda, whose nine-year term as the court’s chief prosecutor ends this week, said that information gathered in the preliminary probe “indicates that members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians during that time.”
She said prosecutors also reviewed allegations of “torture and other inhumane acts, and related events” dating back to Nov. 1, 2011, “all of which we believe require investigation.”
When he announced he was going to withdraw from the court, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defended his drug crackdown, saying in a 15-page statement that it is “lawfully directed against drug lords and pushers who have for many years destroyed the present generation, specially the youth.”
Judges at the global court have 120 days to issue a decision on the prosecutor’s request.