MANILA - The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday said it is seeking the Philippine government's full cooperation in its preliminary examination into crimes allegedly committed under the Duterte administration's "war on drugs" campaign.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, in a statement, said that the examination will be done with "full independence and impartiality."
"As we do, we hope to count on the full engagement of the relevant national authorities in the Philippines and Venezuela," Bensouda said in a statement.
She said it will look at information regarding crimes allegedly committed by the government in its anti-drug campaign.
"Specifically, it has been alleged that since July 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing," she added.
"While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extra-judicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations," she said.
She clarified that the examination is not an investigation but "a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the Rome Statute."
"There are no statutory timelines on the length of a preliminary examination. Depending on the facts and circumstances of each situation, I will decide whether to initiate an investigation, subject to judicial review as appropriate; continue to collect information to establish a sufficient factual and legal basis to render a determination; or decline to initiate an investigation if there is no reasonable basis to proceed," Bensouda said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte has been informed of the development and the chief executive said he would gladly face the ICC himself.
Lawyer Jude Sabio earlier said in the 77-page communication to the ICC that Duterte had "repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously" committed crimes against humanity and that under him, killing drug suspects and other criminals has become "best practice" in the pursuit of his drug war.
Created in 1998 through the United Nations treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over 124 of its members, including the Philippines.
It is the first permanent institution having power to exercise jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concerns such as the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression, and is seen to help end impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes.
The Philippines signed the Rome Statute on December 28, 2000 and ratified and endorsed it on August 30, 2011, during the time of Duterte’s predecessor, then President Benigno Aquino III.