The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague last week said it is formally proceeding with a formal investigation into the bloody “war on drugs” initiated by the Philippine government in 2016, immediately after President Duterte assumed power.
However, Mr. Duterte has steadfastly maintained that the ICC has no jurisdiction over him, and refused to obey the ICC mandate.
The drugs crackdown – wherein state authorities were given “permission to kill” – has so far claimed some 8,000 lives (per official estimates). But Human Rights Watch, as well as other watchdogs, say the casualty figure is grossly understated, and is in fact more than double.
Reports said the ICC probe will stretch back to November 2011 when Duterte was mayor of Davao City, and also delve into the alleged murderous activities of the so-called Davao Death Squad, a special unit created precisely to eliminate drug dealers.
If the assigned prosecutor, Karim Khan, so requires, the ICC will issue summons and arrest warrants against concerned Philippine officials.
Khan is the officer who was directed to take over the work started by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who has since retired.
However, Malacanang officials insist the Philippine government cannot be compelled to cooperate with the ICC as it has withdrawn its membership from the body, and their investigators would be barred at the airport and prevented from entering the country.
This was countered by retired ICC Judge Raul Pangalangan who said the Court retains jurisdiction over the Philippines even if it had already quit.
And no less than the Supreme Court has ruled that the Philippines is obliged to comply with the ICC investigation.