phase: Situations & Cases
The preliminary examination of the Situation in the Philippines focuses on alleged atrocity crimes committed since July 1, 2016 in the context of the Government of the Philippines’ “war on drugs” campaign. Specifically, there are allegations that thousands were killed related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or sale. Some of the alleged killings were committed by members of Philippine law enforcement and armed forces, while others were reportedly carried out by unidentified assailants.
In June 2020, the Government of the Philippines created an inter-agency panel to reinvestigate deaths in police war on drugs operations. While the OTP monitored domestic developments to determine the genuineness of the investigations, the Prosecutor ultimately determined that “the overall failure to take meaningful action to bring perpetrators to justice, particularly when combined with promises of immunity or protection from accountability, constitutes a form of encouragement to perpetrators to continue committing violent crimes against suspected drug users and dealers.”
The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute on August 30, 2011. The ICC has jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed since November 1, 2011. On March 17, 2018, the Government of the Philippines deposited a written notification of withdrawal from the Rome Statute. The withdrawal took effect on March 17, 2019. However, the Court retains jurisdiction over alleged crimes that occurred in the Philippines during the time period when it was a State Party to the Court – from November 1, 2011 through March 16, 2019.
In its December 14, 2020 report, the OTP stated that it is satisfied that crimes against humanity were committed between at least July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019, and therefore it has subject matter jurisdiction.
In June 2021, the Prosecutor requested publicly to open an investigation into crimes committed in the Philippines between November 1, 2011 – March 16, 2019, focusing on allegations of murder as a crime against humanity through the so-called “war on drugs” campaign throughout the Philippines in 2016-2019 and earlier in the Davao region (2011-2016).
Pre-Trial Chamber I authorized the opening of an investigation on September 15, 2021 in line with the Prosecutor’s request, finding a reasonable basis to conclude that crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction had been committed, and noting that the investigation could encompass other crimes within the territorial, temporal, an factual parameters of the Prosecutor’s request. In its decision, the Pre-Trial Chamber emphasized that “based on the facts as they emerge at present and subject to proper investigation and further analysis, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings discussed above neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation, and that “[r]ather, the available material indicates that an attack against the civilian population within the meaning of Article 7(2)(1) of the Statute occurred.” The Pre-Trial Chamber also reiterated that despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute, when was effective in March 2019, the Court retained jurisdiction over crimes committed while the Philippines was State Party.
The Chamber considered 204 victim representations, and noted that 94% of the victims representations favored an investigation.
For more information on the preliminary examination in the Philippines, please visit the ICC page.
Other Resources (non-ABA)
Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in the Philippines (UN Human Rights Council, 2020)
Report: License to Kill: Philippine Police Killings in Duterte’s “War on Drugs” (Human Rights Watch, 2017)
Ongoing Extrajudicial Executions and Other Violations in the Philippines’ ‘War on Drugs’ (Amnesty International, 2019)
Frontline: Get the Backstory on Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ as ICC Green Lights Investigation into Philippines Killings (PBS, 2021)