President Duterte announces withdrawal of Philippines from ICC

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Several rights groups on Wednesday said proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges filed against President Rodrigo Duterte over deaths in his drug war would continue despite his decision to withdraw the country's ratification of the treaty that created the tribunal.

But in a 15-page statement, dated March 13, Duterte said he was withdrawing from the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, because of "baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks" by United Nations officials, and ICC actions that he said failed to follow due process and presumption of innocence.

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, said the Duterte administration may still face prosecution from the ICC for crimes committed in the Philippines while it was still a member-state.

It is "intended to escape accountability by present and even future officials for crimes committed against the people and humanity", Zarate said.

He said the worldwide criminal court has also been utilized as a "political tool against the Philippines" following the implication of culpability the preliminary examination by the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bansouda "unduly and maliciously created". The Philippine Senate was responsible for ratifying the treaty.

He said it will also encourage China to scoff at the Philippines' victory at the UN Arbitral Tribunal over the West Philippine Sea and physically wrest sovereignty over the Philippine islands.

Talk of a possible ICC investigation into Duterte's bloody crackdown on drug use has been ongoing since the start of his presidency, but the Philippine president has dismissed such rhetoric and criticism as "bullshit".

But even as early as October 13, 2016, when Duterte had only been in office less than four months, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that she was "deeply concerned" over reports of extra-judicial killings.

Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, said the ICC was "siding with the enemies of the president", while Duterte's legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the accession to the Rome Statute in 2011 was never announced in the Philippines official gazette, thus did not apply.

Mr. Duterte rejects such accusations and typically chides the worldwide community for listening to what his government says are biased human rights groups that have no proof.

Duterte said the worldwide court has been used as a "political tool against the Philippines" over its attempts to put him under its jurisdiction amid an inquiry into his war on illegal drugs.

Duterte "welcomes the preliminary examination because he is sick and exhausted of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity", Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said when the examination was announced.

"The government is grossly mistaken in believing that the ICC does not have jurisdiction over events in this country".

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

Created in 1998 through the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over 124 of its members, including the Philippines.

The President also argued that the ICC neither has jurisdiction to try him nor has a war crime to investigate.

Duterte, who is buoyed by high popularity ratings in the Philippines, has fiercely defended the drug war as a battle to bring safety to the nation's 100 million people.

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