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article imageDuterte spokesman reveals, rejects ICC probe linked to drug war

By AFP     Feb 8, 2018 in World

The International Criminal Court is opening an initial probe into allegations of crimes against humanity by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, his spokesman said Thursday, insisting the Philippine leader rejected any accusations of mass murder arising out of his war on drugs.

A Philippine lawyer filed the complaint against Duterte at the world's only permanent war crimes court nearly 10 months ago, alleging his anti-crime crackdown has caused some 8,000 deaths.

The Hague-based tribunal's prosecutor has recently notified the Philippine embassy there it is opening a "preliminary examination" on the case, Duterte spokesman Harry Roque told reporters Thursday.

"We view of course this decision of the prosecutor as a waste of time and resources," Roque said, adding that Duterte holds he merely employed "lawful use of force" against threats to the state and its citizens.

The ICC spokesman contacted by AFP would not confirm the information, and there was no immediate response to AFP's inquiries from the prosecutor's office.

Duterte won a landslide victory in the 2016 elections largely on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of criminals and eradicate drugs in Philippine society.

He has since overseen a crackdown that has left nearly 4,000 drug suspects dead at the hands of the police. The authorities are also investigating more than 2,000 other cases of "drug-related" killings by unknown suspects.

Rights groups put the total number of drug war deaths as at least twice the official figure, many of them committed by shadowy vigilantes.

Police insist they only shot armed suspects in self-defence.

Jude Sabio, the Filipino lawyer behind the suit, told AFP he was "elated" and "vindicated" by the prosecutor's action, adding the court usually threw out many other complaints brought before it.

"This is a big step because finally the system of death squad killings created by Duterte... can be investigated," Sabio said, adding he hoped it would lead to Duterte's arrest.

But Roque said the Philippine mission will tell the court it has no jurisdiction over the case because the tribunal was intended as a "court of last resort" and the Philippine courts were fully functioning.

"No one should claim a victory because we are only in the stage of preliminary examination," Roque said, accusing the political opposition of being behind Sabio's suit.

"Obviously this is intended to embarrass the president. But the president is a lawyer, he knows what the procedures are. They will fail," said Roque, a former law professor.

But Roque also said Duterte welcomed the development.

"He's sick and tired of being accused of committing crimes against humanity," Roque said.

"The president has said that if need be, he will argue his case personally before the International Criminal Court," the spokesman added.

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