Philippines moves to quit International Criminal Court


THE Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will not stop the preliminary examination of allegations of human rights violations against President Rodrigo Duterte, opposition lawmakers said Wednesday, March 14.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, responding to a complaint from a Philippine lawyer, in February began a preliminary examination of Duterte's battle against drug traffickers.

Officially quitting the court requires a year's notice and experts say pulling out does not preclude an investigation of the deaths, which have drawn worldwide concern.

He said the United Nations expert on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, had without any proof "pictured me as a ruthless violator of human rights" who was directly responsible for homicide.

In response, a majority of the Philippine senators signed a resolution declaring that termination or withdrawal from the worldwide agreement is only "valid and effective" with their consent.

The ICC, an intergovernmental organization that investigates cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression, was established by the Rome Statute, which was created in 2002. 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.

Rights advocates and attorneys said quitting the court would not eliminate the possibility of a case before it.

Villarin also said that as a signatory to the Rome Statute and other treaty obligations, the decision of the President will be tantamount to reneging all other global commitments and obligations that would have unprecedented repercussions to the country's worldwide standing as a sovereign state.

According to ICC rules, a withdrawal is effective one year after receipt of notification.

However, should the Philippines fully withdraw from the court it would not be the first to do so, as Burundi became the first ever nation to leave in October 2017. "Specifically, it has been alleged that since July 1, 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing", the prosecutor said at that time.

He added: "However, President Duterte won't save himself from ICC investigation by withdrawing the Philippines as a State Party to the Rome Statute".

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

Adding pressure on Manila, in February, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva raised the country's human rights record, with Icelandic Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson calling on the Philippines to accept the visit of a UN Special Rapporteur.

Harry Roque, Duterte's spokesman, said the firebrand leader has instructed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to notify the ICC of the Philippines' withdrawal.