ACTIVISTS and families of suspects slain in Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs are calling for the leader’s indictment over thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings.
The group representing eight victims on Tuesday filed a 50-page complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) that accused Duterte of murder and crimes against humanity.
The petition is the second ICC complaint to be filed by families accusing Duterte of ordering police to carry out indiscriminate killings.
Among other allegations, the group claimed the police who acted on Duterte’s orders had committed “brazen” executions and acted with impunity.
“Duterte is personally liable for ordering state police to undertake mass killings,” Neri Colmenares, a lawyer representing the group, told reporters.
The families claimed their complaints with local authorities had gone nowhere while members of their campaign were being “persecuted”.
According to Reuters, the latest move is led by a network of activists, priests and members of the poor, urban communities.
Since taking office in June 2016, Duterte has presided over a campaign to wipe out illegal drugs during which the government says it has “neutralised” – or killed – some 4,540 “drug lords” and arrested almost 50,000 people.
Human Rights Watch has claimed the real figure of those killed by police or plain-clothed assassins was more than 12,000 – most of whom are urban poor.
Duterte insists he told the police to kill only in self-defence and has lashed out at critics while demonstrating no remorse for the deaths.
During his State of the Nation address last month, Duterte said the drugs war would remain “relentless and “chilling”.
Benigno Durana, a national police spokesman, said the only order Duterte gave to police was “to wage war on drugs and criminality within the bounds of the law”.
The ICC petition, known as a communication, follows a similar complaint filed in April 2017 by a Philippine lawyer.
The earlier complaint was backed by two opposition lawmakers, into which the ICC in February started a preliminary examination.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the body would be looking into extrajudicial killings in the Philippines that allegedly took place during anti-drug operations.
Duterte previously said he would “gladly” be convicted by the ICC.
However, the leader also announced that the Philippines would pull out of the Rome Statute immediately due to “unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person … engineered by the officials of the United Nations” and a supposed “violation of due process”.
In response, the ICC stated that the Philippines’ formal decision to withdraw from the court would take one year to become effective, meaning that its current investigation into extrajudicial killings there would not be impacted.