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Int’l Criminal Court prosecutor ‘deeply concerned’ about Philippines killings

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said on Thursday she was "deeply concerned" about thousands of alleged killings in the Philippines, warning that those responsible could face prosecution.

"I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements from high officials of the... Philippines seem to condone such killings," Fatou Bensouda said in a statement issued in The Hague.

Bensouda added she was also concerned that high officials "seem to encourage State forces and civilians alike to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force."

Since July Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen a brutal crackdown on illegal drugs that has left more than 3,300 people dead, both at the hands of police as well as in unexplained circumstances, according to official data.

The United Nations, the European Union, the United States and international human rights groups have all raised concern over alleged extrajudicial killings.

Bensouda too warned: "Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing... to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable for prosecution before the Court." 

The acid-tongued Duterte has rejected the allegations and called the campaign an internal affair of the Philippines.

He has also spoken out against US President Barack Obama and UN chief Ban Ki-moon over their criticism.

Duterte last month challenged Ban and international human rights experts to visit the country, both to investigate the allegations and to face him in a public debate.

On Wednesday Manila formally issued an invitation to UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to investigate the killings.

Callamard has told AFP she would discuss with Manila the date and scope of her fact-finding mission, state guarantees for her freedom of movement and inquiry, and assurances about the safety of mission members and their interview subjects.

The Philippines has been an ICC member state since November 2011 "and as such, the Court has jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory or by nationals of the Philippines," Bensouda said. — Agence France-Presse