The International Criminal Court announced that it would allow its prosecutors to reopen an investigation into crimes against humanity committed under former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs. File Photo by Francis R. Malasig/EPA-EFE
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The International Criminal Court announced that it will resume its investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines under former President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
The Hague-based court had temporarily suspended its probe in November 2021 after Manila requested a deferral to conduct its own review.
On Thursday, the ICC granted its prosecutor's request to reopen the inquiry, saying it is "not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral."
"The chamber concluded that 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," the ICC said.
Duterte swept to the Philippine presidency in 2016 with a violent, tough-on-crime message, vowing to end the country's drug problem within six months and publicly urging police and even citizens to kill drug dealers.
According to official government figures, roughly 6,200 people were killed in the brutal anti-drug operations under Duterte. However, rights groups have said the figure could be as high as 30,000, including widespread extrajudicial violence.
The Philippines said Friday it would appeal the decision.
"While we have not received an official copy of this resolution, it is our intention to exhaust our legal remedies, more particularly elevating the matter to the ICC appeals chamber," Menardo Guevarra, Manila's top justice official, said in a message to reporters.
Human Rights Watch praised the decision by the ICC to reopen the investigation, calling it "the only credible avenue for justice for the victims and their families of former President Rodrigo Duterte's murderous 'war on drugs.'"
"The ICC offers a path forward to fill the accountability vacuum," Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director, said in an email.
Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the ICC in 2019 after its preliminary investigation began, attempting to argue that the international body has no jurisdiction in the country.
As his single six-year term came to an end in June, the outgoing president called for the national police to continue his war on drugs.
Duterte's successor, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said in August that the Philippines "has no intention" of rejoining the ICC.