Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to authorize the resumption of its investigation into “drug war” killings in the Philippines.
“The ICC investigation in the Philippines is the only credible avenue for justice for the victims and their families of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous ‘war on drugs,’” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director.
“As the court’s judges agreed, Philippine authorities are not ‘undertaking relevant investigations’ into these crimes or ‘making a real or genuine effort’ to carry these investigations out,” added Robertson in a statement on Friday, January 27.
He said the ICC decision “offers a path forward to fill the accountability vacuum.”
On Thursday, the ICC announced that it authorized the reopening of an inquiry into the anti-drugs campaign by former president Duterte, which left thousands dead.
Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the Hague-based tribunal in 2019 after it began a preliminary probe into the crackdown, followed by the launch of a formal inquiry later that year.
But the probe was suspended in November 2019 after Manila said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen and vigilantes.
Officially, 6,181 people were killed in Duterte’s “war on drugs” but rights group say that up to 30,000 may have been killed, some innocent victims, and that corruption was rife among security forces that acted with impunity.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan asked to restart the inquiry last year, saying the Philippine government under Duterte’s successor, President Ferdinand Marcos, had not provided evidence it was carrying out thorough inquiries.
In a statement Thursday, the ICC said its pre-trial chamber “is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court’s investigations.”
“The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps,” it added.
Marcos has vowed to continue the drug war but with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation, though so far he has ruled out rejoining the ICC.
In November, a Philippine police officer was jailed for planting evidence and torturing two teenagers killed at the height of Duterte’s drug war, a rare conviction of an enforcer of the crackdown. – with a report from AFP