The International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor has asked judges to investigate the killings of thousands of people in the Philippines as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs.”

“I announce that the preliminary examination into the situation in the Republic of the Philippines has concluded and that I have requested judicial authorization to proceed with an investigation,” ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement on Monday.

She said there is a “reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed” between July 1, 2016 – a day into Duterte’s presidency – and March 16, 2019, the day after the Philippines officially left the ICC.

A preliminary probe suggested that up to tens of thousands of people have been killed “unlawfully” by the Philippines National Police and others, Bensouda said.

She said her office had also reviewed information related to “allegations of torture and other inhumane acts” as early as 2011, before Duterte took office as president.

Despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC’s Rome Statute, the Hague-based court still claims jurisdiction over the Southeast Asian country for the years that it remained part of the ICC. If an ICC investigation into the Philippines goes ahead, it will be led by Karim Khan, Bensouda’s successor who takes over from her after she completes her term on June 15.

When Duterte entered office in the summer of 2016, he vowed a crackdown on drugs and ordered police to kill anyone suspected of being involved in the trade of illicit substances.

Reports of the number of deaths under the crackdown vary, with local news site Rappler claiming police alone had killed 7,884 alleged suspects up to September last year. However, there have been estimates by local human rights groups that vigilante killings in the drug war have claimed as many as 27,000 lives.

Police have denied allegations of murder. Duterte, who has publicly threatened to kill drug dealers, has denied ordering unlawful killings as part of the crackdown.

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