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Politics

International court finds evidence of crimes in Duterte drug war

Manila says Hague body has no jurisdiction over Philippine president

Relatives of those killed in the Philippines' war on drugs take part in a protest marking International Human Rights Day in December 2019 in Manila.   © Getty Images

MANILA -- The International Criminal Court on Tuesday said it had found "reasonable basis to believe" that alleged crimes against humanity were committed under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal anti-narcotics campaign.

In a report, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office expects to decide on "whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the Philippines in the first half of 2021."

Harry Roque, Duterte's spokesman, dismissed the report, saying the ICC no longer has jurisdiction over Duterte. "There's no reason for the ICC prosecutor to proceed," he said in a regular news conference.

Manila officially withdrew from the Rome Statute in March 2019, becoming the second country to do so, after Burundi.

Still, the Hague-based court said it "retains jurisdiction over alleged crimes that have occurred on the territory of the Philippines during the period when it was a State Party to the Statute," from November 2011 to March 2019.

The ICC prosecutor in February 2018 opened a "preliminary examination" to "analyze crimes allegedly committed" in Duterte's drug war, in which over 5,000 people have been killed in police raids. Many more have been killed by unknown gunmen, according to human rights advocates.

The ICC said the preliminary examination focused on crimes allegedly committed from July 2016, when Duterte assumed office, until March 2019.

"In particular, it focuses on allegations that President Duterte and senior members of law enforcement agencies and other government bodies actively promoted and encouraged the killing of suspected or purported drug users and/or dealers, and in such context, members of law enforcement, including particularly the PNP [Philippine National Police], and unidentified assailants have carried out thousands of unlawful killings throughout the Philippines," the report stated.

Duterte has previously railed against the ICC and threatened to arrest Bensouda if she comes to the Philippines.

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