ICC prosecutor vows to 'uncover truth' in Philippines

ICC judges gave the green light to the probe into Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign after saying it resembled an illegitimate and systematic attack on civilians.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Picture: AFP

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Thursday he will "uncover the truth" in his investigation into Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs.

Duterte said earlier this week he would prepare his defence against the probe by the Hague-based tribunal into the anti-narcotics campaign, which rights groups estimate has killed tens of thousands of people, after previously insisting he would not cooperate.

"My investigation will seek to uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability," Karim Khan said in his first response to a September 15 decision by ICC judges to authorise a full investigation.

Britain's Khan, who took office in June, said he was "willing to constructively engage with national authorities" in the Philippines over the investigation by the world's only permanent war crimes court.

ICC officials said the release of Khan's statement was not linked to Duterte's recent comments.

ICC judges gave the green light to the probe into Duterte's campaign after saying it resembled an illegitimate and systematic attack on civilians.

The court said there was a "reasonable basis" to believe murder, as a crime against humanity, had been committed and said Khan could also probe reports of other crimes including torture, enforced disappearance, and sexual violence.

Firebrand Duterte pulled Manila out of the ICC in 2019 after it launched a preliminary probe, but the Hague-based court says it has jurisdiction over crimes committed while the Philippines was still a member.

After long refusing to admit it had any power to intervene, Duterte backtracked in a pre-recorded speech released on Monday.

"I will prepare for my defence in the ICC," Duterte said in the speech, which came two days after he declared he would retire from politics.

"Just stick to the facts because there are records of it. I am not threatening you -- just don't cheat me on the evidence."

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