International Criminal Court makes surprise move in Philippines drug war probe — Analysis

International Criminal Court has stopped an investigation into rights violations committed by Philippine authorities in a crackdown on drug trafficking. It said it was reviewing a request for deferral from Manila.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan said the probe was suspended after the Philippine government filed a request to defer the case earlier this month, according to court documents cited by Reuters on Friday. 

“The prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the deferral request,”He added that the court would like more information from Manila government officials.

The ICC, based in The Hague allows countries to request postponements if their own investigations are conducted into the charges. President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration filed its deferral request on November 10, while the country’s Justice Ministry announced its own investigation into the alleged abuses late last month.

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Philippines announces probe into thousands of killings during Duterte’s war on drugs as initial review suggests abuses took place

Initial allegations by the Philippine police that they had used brutal tactics to stop suspected drug dealers and carried out extrajudicial executions in thousands, led to Duterte opening the investigation. Although activists accuse authorities of murdering children, the police maintain that they are only using violence for self-defense.

Duterte declined to cooperate in the ICC probe. The court, which has jurisdiction over any violations the Philippines may have committed while still a member, even though it is not authorized to do so.

The president’s chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, confirmed the deferral request in brief comments to Reuters, saying “There is no inconsistency with the request for suspension of action,”However, they did not offer any explanations.

Since its founding some 20 years ago, the ICC has successfully convicted just five people of war crimes or crimes against humanity – all leaders of armed movements in Africa, including in Mali, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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