By Ted Regencia / Aljazeera
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor said on Monday that there is “reasonable basis to believe” the Philippines has committed crimes against humanity in connection with President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called war on drugs operation.
Fatou Bensouda’s office, in its annual report, said those crimes included murder, torture, infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm. They took place between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019.
The ICC prosecutor’s office has been examining the Philippines’ case since 2018, focusing in particular on allegations that Duterte and other government officials have actively promoted and encouraged the killing of suspected drug users and dealers, as well as claims that law enforcement officials and unidentified assailants have carried out thousands of unlawful killings in the Philippines.
A final decision on a formal ICC investigation could come in the first half of 2021, the report said, attributing the delays to the coronavirus pandemic.
Duterte, who assumed office in 2016, has promised a relentless war against drugs – an issue he campaigned on during the presidential election of that same year. On several occasions, the Philippine president had told police officers to “shoot and kill” drug suspects, saying in 2017 that “I will kill more if only to get rid of drugs”.
The ICC report noted that law enforcement officials were involved in the deaths of more than 5,300 people during their anti-drug crackdown.