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Philippines: Next Steps for ICC Probe of Duterte-Era Killings

Q&A on International Criminal Court Decision to Resume Investigation

Protesters march outside Malacanang palace in Manila, Philippines, June 30, 2021. © 2021 AP Photo/Aaron Favila

(Manila) – A three-judge panel of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided on January 26, 2023 to authorize the court’s prosecutor to resume his investigation in the Philippines, advancing accountability for extrajudicial killings in the country, Human Rights Watch said after releasing a question-and-answer document on the decision today. The Philippine government appealed the decision on February 3.

“The ICC judges’ decision to greenlight the prosecutor’s resumption of the Philippines investigation is a step toward justice for the thousands of victims of Duterte’s murderous ‘drug war,’” said Carlos Conde, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should recognize the suffering of the victims’ families and cooperate with the ICC investigation so that justice can be done.”

The ICC investigation in the Philippines covers alleged crimes committed from November 2011 to June 2016, including the large number of extrajudicial killings in Davao City while former President Rodrigo Duterte was its mayor, as well as thousands of killings throughout the country during his presidency’s “war on drugs” up until March 16, 2019, a day before the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, took effect. 

In their January 26 decision, the ICC judges concluded that the Philippine government failed to demonstrate that it took sufficient action to investigate and prosecute the killings during President Duterte’s administration. The question-and-answer document provides background on the ICC investigation and discusses the key elements of the judges’ decision, as well as next steps in the proceedings.

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