Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Duterte moves to withdraw Philippines from International Criminal Court

Duterte moves to withdraw Philippines from International Criminal Court

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.

However, the country has yet to file a formal notice to withdraw from the global tribunal.

"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".

Duterte's recent move comes after the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor announced it is starting a preliminary examination "following a careful, independent, and impartial review of communications and reports documenting alleged crimes" committed in the Philippines since 2016.

In a statement signed by Duterte on Wednesday, he declared that The Hague-based organisation "has no jurisdiction nor will it acquire jurisdiction" over him.

He also defended the police officers involved in the deadly drug operations, saying they "lacked the intent to kill".

Publicly declaring in speeches that a country will withdraw will not automatically jumpstart the process.

The Philippines acceded to the ICC in 2011, becoming the 117th country to join the court.

Duterte, however, argues that the Philippines can do as it pleases because he rejects the agreement as a whole.

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.

Duterte's bloody campaign has caused global alarm and fierce criticism from some United Nations representatives, including High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, who on Friday said Duterte should submit himself for a psychiatric examination. Sabio is the lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, who said he killed people in Davao City upon the orders of then then-Mayor Duterte.

"Also, we can not get out of ICC jurisdiction just like that". However, the 72-year-old said that he is not planning to wait, and that the withdrawal would take place immediately.

A complaint was filed with the ICC by a Philippine lawyer previous year. He said the Rome Statute that established the tribunal for heinous leaders can not be enforced in the Philippines because it has not been made public as required by law after Filipino senators ratified it in 2011.

Baguilat hopes that Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., a former human rights lawyer who had pushed for the ratification of the Rome treaty, can provide better advice to the President.

He said: "In short, since the ICC has already commenced with proceedings regarding President Duterte's war on drugs, it has the authority to proceed and the Philippine government has the obligation to cooperate with an investigation, regardless of the notice of withdrawal".

Senator Antonio Trillanes said Duterte was withdrawing "because he knows that there is no way out for him in the ICC".

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