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Duterte pulls Philippines from ICC after drug killings probe

  • Wed, 14 Mar 2018 18:35
Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines was subjected to ‘fraud’ when it ratified the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said he was withdrawing the country from the International Criminal Court, which last month opened a preliminary probe into alleged crimes against humanity by his administration during its war on drugs.

In a statement to the Philippine media laced with angry invective against the international court and the United Nations, Mr Duterte on Wednesday said he was axing his country’s ratification of the Rome Statute — the UN treaty that created the ICC — with immediate effect.

Mr Duterte attributed the withdrawal to the “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person as well as against my administration, engineered by the officials of the United Nations”.

Under the Rome Statute, countries seeking to withdraw can only do so a year after submitting their notification to the UN secretary-general. 

However, Mr Duterte said this was not applicable as the Philippines was subjected to “fraud” when it ratified the Rome Statute. He said Manila was led to believe that the presumption of innocence would be maintained, and that the ICC would observe the principle of “complementarity”, or only pursuing crimes that national courts fail to prosecute.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, last month said the court had opened a preliminary investigation into a complaint accusing Mr Duterte of crimes against humanity in the crackdown on narcotics that he has pursued since taking power in 2016.

Human rights groups allege that more than 12,000 people have died in the campaign, which they say has been characterised by extrajudicial killings, most often targeting the urban poor. The Philippine government puts the death toll at 4,000.

Mr Duterte said that Ms Bensouda had acted “unduly and maliciously” in opening the probe: “It is apparent that the ICC is being utilised as a political tool against the Philippines.”

He said that deaths in the campaign only resulted in the process of legitimate police operations, and that authorities only acted “when their lives became endangered by the violent resistance of the suspects”.

“The acts allegedly committed by me are neither genocide nor war crimes, neither is it a crime of aggression or a crime against humanity,” he said.

Human Rights Watch said that the Philippines’ intention to quit the ICC was “unfortunate” but would not shut the door on ICC prosecutors’ scrutiny of the Duterte government’s “horrendous track record of grave abuses”.

Antonio Trillanes, an opposition lawmaker and outspoken critic of the Philippine leader, said: “First he said that he is willing to be jailed for what he has done, then he said that the ICC has no jurisdiction and that he has not committed any crime against humanity.

“Now Duterte, by withdrawing from the ICC, has practically admitted that he is guilty of the allegations filed against him.”

The withdrawal of the Philippines will deal a blow to the credibility of the court, which some critics have accused of overstepping its mandate of prosecuting only the gravest cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Burundi withdrew from the court last year.

The court’s preliminary probe of the Philippines was the first step of the ICC’s tortuous legal process, which thus far has secured only a small handful of convictions against officials in African countries. 

Mr Duterte had in the past threatened to withdraw the Philippines’ recognition of the court’s jurisdiction, describing the ICC as “useless”. The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute in 2011 under the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, Mr Duterte’s predecessor.



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