March 18, 2018

Rights groups: PH withdrawal from ICC won't halt proceedings vs Duterte

14 March 2018, 07:01 | Opal Carroll

The ICC announced in February that it was launching a “preliminary examination” of Mr Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drugs Credit AP

The ICC announced in February that it was launching a “preliminary examination” of Mr Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drugs

President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he was pulling the Philippines out of the treaty underpinning the International Criminal Court, which is examining his deadly drug war. Others called the move a foreign policy blunder that could embolden China to scoff at Manila's victory in an global arbitration case against Beijing over contested territories.

Duterte announced he is withdrawing the Philippines from the Rome Statute which gives the Hague-based ICC the authority to investigate crimes on its soil.

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 called the failure to make the ratification public a "glaring and fatal error".

"On the merits, one of the elements of the crime against humanity is murder, which is the crime of unlawful killing, and that any killing in connection with the drug war could not be unlawful killing because they are valid, legitimate police action", Roque said. He argued Wednesday that the killings do not amount to crimes against humanity, genocide or similar atrocities.

The statement, which had yet to be signed by Duterte, was given to reporters by presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, who confirmed to Reuters that the document was authentic.

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

However, the 72-year-old said that he is not planning to wait, and that the withdrawal would take place immediately.

He added that the deaths were the result of police defending themselves, "a justifying circumstance under our criminal law, hence they do not incur criminal liability".

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Duterte, a former prosecutor, had said the ICC could not have jurisdiction over him. The president renewed his verbal attacks against United Nations human rights officials who have expressed alarm over the massive killings.

The outspoken Philippine leader, who is accused of stoking the killings with inflammatory statements, has taken issue over the Philippines becoming the first southeast Asian nation put under a preliminary examination by the ICC prosecutor.

In February, the ICC launched a preliminary inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Duterte.

Zeid demanded that the Human Rights Council, which counts the Philippines among its 47 member countries, "must take a strong position" on the issue, and insisted "these attacks can not go unanswered".

Mr. Duterte dared it to bring him to trial and said he would rot in jail to save Filipinos from crime and drugs.

"This is a penal law, and should be published pursuant to the ruling of the Supreme Court.What the Court says is the provisions of a penal law be published so the people will know exactly what is being punished by the treaty", Roque said.

"OTP (Office of the Prosecutor) would not be precluded from opening an investigation even if the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, and Amnesty International believes that the Philippines would also remain under a continuing obligation to cooperate with the Court even if it withdrew from the Rome Statute", it said.

Villarin said it could also embolden China, which has refused to comply with an worldwide arbitration ruling that invalidated its vast territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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