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Intl court prosecutor seeks to reactivate Philippines probe

FILE - Karim Ahmed Khan, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Justice in the Khartoum, Sudan, Aug. 12, 2021. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Friday, June 24, 2022, he has asked judges for authorization to resume his investigation “as quickly as possible” into the so-called “war on drugs” in the Philippines. Judges last September authorized Prosecutor Karim Khan to investigate alleged crimes against humanity Nov. 1 2011 and March 16, 2019, linked to the deadly crackdown. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Friday he has asked judges for authorization to resume his investigation “as quickly as possible” into the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines.

Judges last September authorized Prosecutor Karim Khan to investigate alleged crimes against humanity between Nov. 1, 2011 and March 16, 2019, linked to the deadly crackdown.

However, the probe was suspended last November after the Philippines said in a letter to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan that it already is investigating the crimes and so the international court doesn’t have jurisdiction.

“The court may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail to do so, which is certainly not the case in the Philippines,” the letter said, citing domestic investigations.

However, Khan has now sought to resume his probe, saying in a statement that “I have concluded that the deferral requested by the Philippines is not warranted, and that the investigation should resume as quickly as possible.”

More than 6,000 mostly poor drug suspects have been killed, according to government pronouncements, but human rights groups say the death toll is considerably higher and should include many unsolved killings by motorcycle-riding gunmen who may have been deployed by police.

Former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has defended the crackdown as “lawfully directed against drug lords and pushers who have for many years destroyed the present generation, especially the youth.”

Duterte has denied condoning extrajudicial killings of drug suspects although he has openly threatened suspects with death and has ordered police to shoot suspects who dangerously resist arrest.

The ICC is a court of last resort for cases that countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute. Under the court’s rules, a country can request deferral of an investigation if it is already investigating the crimes.