ICC temporarily halts PH drug war probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) — The International Criminal Court has suspended its probe into the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs, following a request from the Philippine government.

The prosecution "suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the Deferral Request," ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a document dated Nov. 18.

Khan, however, added that analysis of information already collected will continue. In the coming days, the prosecution will also ask the Philippines to submit additional information backing the request, he said.

In a letter dated Nov. 10, Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya wrote Khan regarding the government's request, saying local authorities have already "undertaken, and continue to undertake, thorough investigations of all reported deaths during anti-narcotic operations in the country in accordance with the relevant procedures."

Malaya said Manila's Department of Justice (DOJ) has already referred to the National Bureau of Investigation its review of 52 cases, where administrative liability was found on the part of law enforcers.

"These cases are to undergo further investigation and case build-up for the possible filing of criminal charges against erring PNP (Philippine National Police) members," he added.

The DOJ is also looking into around 300 other cases from the last decade that will help the agency in its review of other areas of concern that possibly also involve violations of human rights, Malaya said.

"This ongoing process is a priority of the DOJ and of the Philippine Government, and a recognition of the need to address allegations of impunity in the field against erring law enforcement officers and personnel," the letter read.

In September, the ICC's pre-trial chamber authorized the start of the investigation into the Duterte administration's controversial drug war, as well as alleged extrajudicial killings involving the so-called Davao Death Squad.

Malaya said in the deferment request that "the Philippine Government has the first responsibility and right to prosecute international crimes. The Court may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail to do so, which is certainly not the case in the Philippines."

The administration had repeatedly stated that the country will not cooperate in the ICC's probe since it does not have jurisdiction over the Philippines after it withdrew from the Rome Statute - the treaty that established the ICC - on March 17, 2019.