The International Criminal Court announced on 15 September that its Pre-Trial Chamber I has granted the ICC Prosecutor’s request to commence an investigation in relation to crimes committed in the Philippines “in the context of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign” of the Duterte government.

Then-ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested the commencement of the investigations on 14 June 2021. Pre-Trial Chamber I Judges Péter Kovács, Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou and María del Socorro Flores Liera found that “there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.” They noted that the specific legal element of the crime against humanity of murder has been met with respect to the killings committed in the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019.

The ICC judges emphasized that “the so-called war on drugs campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation.” The available material indicates, they said, that a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population took place pursuant to, or in furtherance of, State policy.