ICC judges reopen probe into Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’

International Criminal Court judges on Thursday cleared the way for the court’s prosecution office to resume its investigation into the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines.

Prosecutor Karim Khan asked judges for permission last year to reactivate his investigation into alleged crimes against humanity between Nov. 1, 2011, and March 16, 2019 that were linked to the deadly crackdown.

The probe was suspended in late 2021 after the Philippines said it already was investigating the crimes and argued the ICC — a court of last resort — therefore did not have jurisdiction.

Khan argued last year he should be allowed to reopen the ICC investigation, saying Manila’s request for the case to be deferred to authorities there “is not warranted.”

In their ruling Thursday, a panel of judges agreed, saying that after examining information from the Philippines government and Khan and weighing comments from victims, they concluded “the various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the court’s investigation.”

More than 6,000 drug suspects, most of them people who lived in poverty, have been killed, according to government pronouncements. Human rights groups say the death toll is considerably higher and should include many unsolved killings by motorcycle-riding gunmen who may have been deployed by police.

Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has defended the crackdown as “lawfully directed against drug lords and pushers who have for many years destroyed the present generation, especially the youth.”

Duterte openly threatened drug suspects with death and ordered police to shoot suspects who dangerously resisted arrest, but he has denied condoning extrajudicial killings.

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