Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday approved a formal investigation into crimes allegedly committed in the Philippines between November 1, 2011, and March 16, 2019, as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.”
Human rights experts called on the UN in 2019 to launch an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines connected with the “war on drugs,” citing an increase in unlawful killings and attacks on individuals and institutions defending human rights. In July 2020, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stated that the Human Rights Council should consider new accountability measures in the “war on drugs.”
The ICC Prosecutor initially requested authorization in May 2021 to investigate the “war on drugs,” filing a public redacted version of the request on June 14. ICC judges approved the formal investigation on Wednesday, finding that there was a reasonable basis to proceed with the investigation.
Based on the current facts, they stated that the “war on drugs” campaign was not a legitimate law enforcement operation. The panel noted that victims alleged crimes including murder, torture, imprisonment, sexual violence and enforced disappearance.
The judges further stated that the ICC retained jurisdiction for alleged crimes that occurred while the Philippines was a member of the ICC and bound by the Rome Statute. The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC in March 2019, becoming the second country to withdraw after Burundi, which left in 2017.