Running scared? Duterte withdraws from International Criminal Court


Duterte withdraws from international rights treaty following criticism of war on drugs

The Philippines is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court "effective immediately", President Rodrigo Duterte announced Wednesday.

It said the move was due to the "baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person as well as against my administration" by United Nations officials, and what he said was an attempt by the ICC prosecutor to seek jurisdiction over him "in violation of due process and presumption of innocence".

'It is apparent that the ICC is being utilised as a political tool against the Philippines, ' he said.

Adopted and signed by 123 states in 1998 at a conference in Rome, the treaty created the ICC and gave it jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

"The deaths occurring in the process of legitimate police operation lacked the intent to kill", Duterte said.

The statement however contradicts his previous comments about the drugs war, including his willingness to "slaughter" drug addicts and dealers in order to stamp out the problem from the country.

The decision marks a stunning about-face by Duterte, who has repeatedly dared the ICC to indict him and said he was willing to "rot in jail" or go on trial to defend a war on drugs that has killed thousands of his own people.

Last month, the ICC announced that it would begin a preliminary examination on alleged extrajudicial killings associated with the president's bloody drug war.

In a statement released on Wednesday, March 14, Duterte insisted that this was a "brazen display of ignorance of the law" because the court has no jurisdiction over the Philippines or him.

"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.

Under ICC rules, a state's withdrawal takes effect one year after the worldwide tribunal receives notification of its decision to leave.

Duterte's defiance is among the traits that make him wildly popular in the Philippines, where his crackdown has broad support.

"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.

"I'll be there", he apparently said to the ICC.

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.

Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque also said they would refuse a visit by one such rapporteur Agnes Callamard, who had previously been pressing to investigate. They are two of Duterte's strongest critics.

"The withdrawal from the ICC only takes effect after a year from notification", said Celeste Mallari, a professor at the University of the Philippines Law College's Institute of International Legal Studies.

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