Withdrawal from ICC will not stop probe on Duterte, solons say

Sergio Conner
March 14, 2018

Opened in 2002, the ICC is the world's only permanent war crimes court and aims to prosecute the worst abuses when national courts are unable or unwilling.

Countries can only withdraw one year after announcing their withdrawal, according to the guiding principles of the ICC.

"It is apparent that the ICC is being utilised as a political tool against the Philippines", said Mr Duterte.

"This is a misguided and deeply regrettable move by President Duterte, and the latest signal that powerful individuals in the Philippines are more interested in covering up their own potential accountability for killings than they are in ensuring justice for the many victims of the country's brutal "war on drugs".

The ICC announced on February 9 a preliminary examination into allegations Philippine police have killed thousands of alleged users or dealers as part of Duterte's anti-drug war that he launched after taking office in mid-2016.

"I therefore declare and forthwith give notice, as president of the Republic of the Philippines, that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute effective immediately", he said in a statement.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announces the disbandment of police operations against illegal drugs at the Malacanang palace in Manila, Philippines early January 30, 2017.

He made no mention of the withdrawal in a speech on Wednesday.

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Duterte, who is buoyed by high popularity ratings in the Philippines, has fiercely defended the drug war as a battle to bring safety to the nation's 100 million people.

"Since this administration is so convinced that its drug war is justified and that there are no human rights violations then it should have nothing to fear about being investigated by the ICC", Baguilat said.

But the preliminary examination is only the first step in a long process that could take years - if the ICC even proceeds with an investigation. He has refused to accept some police may be systematically executing suspected dealers, as activists say.

But he soon changed his tune, telling security forces not to cooperate in any global investigation, and that "not in a million years" would the ICC have jurisdiction.

Talk of a possible ICC investigation into Duterte's bloody crackdown on drug use has been ongoing since the start of his presidency, but the Philippine president has dismissed such rhetoric and criticism as "bullshit".

The ICC's examination seeks to establish whether crimes have taken place, and such a process typically takes years. "They feel that this will proceed to an investigation", Sabio told Reuters, adding the withdrawal "will have no binding legal effect". The Philippines, under previous President Benigno Aquino, ratified in 2011 the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC, giving the tribunal authority to investigate crimes on its soil.

"I'll be there", he apparently said to the ICC. The president renewed his verbal attacks against United Nations human rights officials who have expressed alarm over the massive killings.

It seems that Duterte would rather withdraw from the institution.

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