ICC prosecutor suspends probe into Philippines drugs war

Relatives of drug war victims light candles for their slain loved ones ahead of All Saints' Day, in Quezon City, Metro Manila. PHOTO: REUTERS

THE HAGUE (REUTERS) - International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan has temporarily suspended a probe into suspected rights abuses during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's crackdown on drugs, documents released on Friday (Nov 19) showed.

Judges at the ICC in September approved a probe into the campaign in which thousands of suspected drug peddlers have died.

Activists say many have been executed by law enforcement agencies with the tacit backing of the president.

Philippine authorities say the killings have been in self-defence and that the ICC has no right to meddle.

According to the court documents, Khan wrote that Manila had filed a deferral request on Nov 10. Governments can ask the ICC to defer a case if they are implementing their own investigations and prosecutions for the same acts.

"The prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the deferral request," Khan wrote, adding that it would seek additional information from the Philippines.

The Duterte government has repeatedly said it will not cooperate with the ICC.

Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2018, but the court has jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed while Manila was a member and up until 2019.

In its nearly two-decade existence, the ICC has convicted five men for war crimes and crimes against humanity, all African militia leaders from Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Uganda.

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