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HRW says ICC prosecutor's probe request a 'big blow' to Duterte

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday welcomed International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's move to seek permission to probe killings in the Philippines being linked to the government's drug war.

In a statement, Param-Preet Singh, HRW's associate international justice director, said the development was a "big blow" to President Rodrigo Duterte's "presumption of impunity for these crimes."

"If approved, it could bring victims and survivors closer to seeing those responsible for their suffering finally brought to justice," Singh said.

According to Philippine government data, from the time Duterte took office in 2016 until the end of April this year, security forces have killed 6,117 drug suspects in sting operations.

The Philippine National Police has a higher figure — 7,884 killed from July 1, 2016, to August 1, 2020, according to HRW.

HRW, citing a June 2020 report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said these figures are conservative and that the number could be triple.

Rights groups said authorities have summarily executed drug suspects, but police say drug dealers fought back violently.

The Philippines' Department of Justice declined to comment on the announcement from the ICC in The Hague.

In announcing her request bid, Bensouda said the Philippines has been under preliminary investigation since February 8, 2018 and that her office has been working on publicly available information as well as information provided under article 15 of the Statute. —KBK, GMA News