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International court backs probe into Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’ By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gesticulates during his fourth State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress, Quezon City Metro Manila, Philippines on July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday approved a formal investigation into possible crimes against humanity allegedly committed under the leadership of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in the context of his “war on drugs”.

According to the ICC, judges have approved a request made by prosecutors for a formal investigation into possible murder in connection with the “war on drugs”.

Judges’ assessment of material presented by prosecutors, was that “the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation”, but rather amounted to a systematic attack on civilians.

Duterte has been accused of inciting violent violence by rights groups. Police have also killed unarmed drug suspects as part the campaign. Duterte claims that police have been given orders by Duterte to only kill in self-defense. On Wednesday night, the government of Manila was unable to respond.

Karapatan, a rights organization from the Philippines said that the comments by the court “reaffirm the views of victims’ families.”

After the ICC decision, it stated that Duterte and his associates must be held accountable for their crimes.

Duterte, in a July speech, blasted the court and said he will fight drug abusers. He said, “I have not denied it”, and that the ICC could record it. Those who destroy our country – you will be killed.”

The Philippines is now out of membership in the ICC. However, the country was a member from July 2016 to March 2019. This period will be the subject of the investigation.

Judges stated that although the relevant crimes appear to have continued even after the date, that court’s investigation was restricted to those suspect to have taken place while the Philippines were a member.

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