ICC will not investigate alleged Philippines war crimes

Rights groups condemned the decision Thursday by the International Criminal Court to suspend an investigation into the Philippines’ war on drugs.

The Hague-based ICC announced Thursday it is suspending a preliminary examination of the Philippines until an amended implementation of a 2015 law combating illegal drugs there satisfies the court’s standards of fairness and independence. It comes less than a month after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre Ibarra struck down the government’s rule of law oversight, raising concerns among rights groups that the Philippines may fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction.

“We are disappointed that the ICC did not listen to the millions of Filipino Filipinos who demanded the administration do its job, instead of letting drug lords, murderers and drug traffickers off the hook,” Jerry Albayalde, the Philippine congressmen who introduced the controversial, self-law amendment, said in a statement.

The ICC received information last July about the Philippines’ ill-defined law, which has created some confusion about how authorities will end the country’s drug war, said spokeswoman Fatou Bensouda.

“Further information about the Philippine context was shared to clarify the situation and its implications,” she said in a statement. “In view of these developments, and consistent with these developments, the prosecutor’s office decided to defer its consideration of the preliminary examination.”

Bensouda said she remains in contact with the Philippines, which takes over the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in June.

Most of the ICC’s cases have focused on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. The ICC’s prosecutor said she has received information concerning the killings of 1,774 people in the Philippines but no one has been charged.

About 47,000 people, mostly drug suspects, have been killed under the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign. Duterte, who has not announced his candidacy for the presidential elections next month, said his critics, including rights groups, are “alarmed” by the deaths.

Human rights groups say about 6,000 people have been killed by police and vigilantes, while others have been killed in mass drug trafficking operations or by unknown assailants.

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