On Monday, President Duterte announced the decision to withdraw Philippine from the International Criminal Court. The announcement comes two months after the court announced its preliminary examination of whether crimes against humanity were committed in Duterte’s war on drugs.
In an official statement, Duterte said that ICC is being used as “a political tool” against him. He further said that the investigation is baseless, and the court has no “jurisdiction over him”. This isn’t the first time President Duterte has attacked the court. Last weeks, the president used derogatory words against the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bom Bensouda, calling her “that Back Woman”.
According to the article 127 of the Rome Statute, a treaty that established ICC, “a signatory country cannot be discharged from any cases that have already pending in the court before the withdraw”. Nonetheless, withdraw is only effective one-year after a country gives written notice of its decision to the UN’s secretary.
If ICC finds evidence against Duterte, the sudden withdraw would therefore not protect him.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw country from ICC after ‘outrageous attacks’
The Philippines says it is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to what President Rodrigo Duterte called “outrageous attacks” by UN officials and violations of due process by the ICC.
The decision marks a stunning about-face by Mr Duterte, who has repeatedly dared the ICC to indict him and said he was willing to “rot in jail” or go on trial to defend a war on drugs that has killed thousands of his own people.
The mercurial former mayor had initially welcomed last month’s announcement by the ICC of its preliminary examination into a complaint filed by a Philippine lawyer accusing Mr Duterte and top officials of crimes against humanity.
But in a 15-page statement, dated March 13, Mr Duterte said he was withdrawing from the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, because of “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” by UN officials, and ICC actions that he said failed to follow due process and presumption of innocence.
“There appears to be a concerted effort on the part of the UN special rapporteurs to paint me as a ruthless and heartless violator of human rights who allegedly caused thousands of extrajudicial killings,” Mr Duterte said.
The ICC’s examination was premature, he added, and, “effectively created the impression that I am to be charged … for serious crimes falling under its jurisdiction”.
Mr Duterte’s chief critics said the move was a U-turn that showed the tough-talking leader was now in panic mode.
London-based rights group Amnesty International called the withdrawal “misguided” and “cowardly”.
An ICC spokesman referred most questions to the court’s prosecutors, who could not immediately be reached.
According to ICC rules, a withdrawal is effective one year after receipt of notification.
The Philippines comes under its jurisdiction because it is a member, and pulling out cannot affect jurisdiction retroactively.
The war on drugs
Mr Duterte’s bloody campaign has caused international alarm and fierce criticism from some UN representatives, including High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who on Friday said Mr Duterte should submit himself for a psychiatric examination.
In a January report, Human Rights Watch said Duterte’s “war on drugs” has led to the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos, mostly urban poor.
Mr Duterte argued Wednesday that the killings do not amount to crimes against humanity, genocide or similar atrocities and has denied allegations of systematic executions of suspected drug dealers.
Mr Duterte’s defiance is among the traits that make him wildly popular in the Philippines, where his crackdown has broad support.
“The so-called war against drugs is lawfully directed against drug lords and pushers who have for many years destroyed the present generation, specially the youth,” Mr Duterte said in the 15-page statement explaining his legal position.
Police deny allegations of murder and cover-ups and say they killed about 4,100 drug dealers in shootouts, but have nothing to do with an estimated 2,300 largely unsolved drug-related homicides.
Last month, Mr Duterte indicated he would cooperate with the ICC examination and even said he would prefer a firing squad to prison.
But he soon changed his tune, telling security forces not to cooperate in any international investigation, and that “not in a million years” would the ICC have jurisdiction.
‘Looks like they are really afraid’
Jude Sabio, the lawyer who filed the ICC complaint last year, said Mr Duterte’s move was predictable, futile and designed to appeal to his base.
“Looks like they are really afraid. Why? They feel that this will proceed to an investigation,” Mr Sabio said, adding the withdrawal “will have no binding legal effect”.
The ICC can only intervene when a member state is unable or unwilling to carry out investigations and prosecute suspected perpetrators.
The Philippines says that is far from the case.
The ICC’s examination seeks to establish whether crimes have taken place, and such a process typically takes years.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the ICC was “siding with the enemies of the President”, while Duterte’s legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said the accession to the Rome Statute in 2011 was never announced in the Philippines official gazette, thus did not apply.
Mr Panelo insisted Mr Duterte was not afraid, but objected to the ICC becoming “a political tool to harass a particular country, like ours”.
Mr Duterte’s critics argued otherwise. Senator Risa Hontiveros said Mr Duterte was desperate and, “may have unwittingly displayed his fear of being proven guilty”.
Senator Antonio Trillanes said Mr Duterte was withdrawing, “because he knows that there is no way out for him in the ICC”.
Source: ABC NEWS, March 14, 2018. Photo credit to Dondi Tawatao/Reuters .