Duterte: Philippines withdrawing from International Criminal Court treaty

Duterte: Philippines withdrawing from International Criminal Court treaty

Kerry Wise
March 16, 2018

A decision of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to pull his country out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will encourage other states to follow the suit, marking "the beginning of the end" for the ICC, the spokesman of Duterte, Harry Roque, said Thursday.

In a statement to Al Jazeera, Param-Preet Singh, associate director at the Human Rights Watch's International Justice programme, said Duterte's decision was not surprising as he "has long showed disdain for the rule of law".

But under the Rome Statute, a withdrawal take effect one year after a member-country has given a one-year notice of its decision to the United Nations secretary-general.

While Philippine presidents, including Duterte, are immune from domestic lawsuits while in office, two Filipino heads of state have been prosecuted and detained immediately after they stepped down, Roque said to demonstrate that officials could be held to account in the Philippines.

He also said the alleged criminal acts hurled against him "do not fall under the enumerated grounds by which the ICC can assume jurisdiction".

"Yes, it saddens me because our membership to the ICC perhaps is my single most important achievement as a member of civil society, but I agree with the President - hindi naman po pupuwede na isantabi iyong soberenya at saka iyong basehan ng consent to be bound dahil lamang sa gawain ng prosecutor".

"The Philippines, in ratifying the Rome Statute, was made to believe that the principle of complementarity shall be observed; that the principle of due process and the presumption of innocence as mandated by our Constitution and the Rome Statue shall prevail", Duterte said.

"The Statute is clear, and Pre-Trial Chamber III has confirmed in the case of Burundi that, even after the withdrawal takes effect, the ICC retains jurisdiction over ICC crimes committed during the period the concerned State was party to the Statute and may exercise this jurisdiction over these crimes even after the withdrawal becomes effective", the ICC said.

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Duterte said that even if the ICC has jurisdiction over him, the accusations against him "do not fall under the enumerated grounds" of the global law.

Is Duterte afraid of the ICC?

Commission on Human Rights chief Chito Gascon said the Philippines has historically been at the forefront of the fight for worldwide justice, but Duterte's decision "constitutes a reversal that will be viewed as encouraging impunity to continue". The one compelling reason probably and I can only speculate as much as you can speculate, perhaps he's had enough and he cannot see any fair treatment from the ICC.

Russian Federation in 2016 dealt the ICC another blow by withdrawing its signature from the Rome Statute.

He said the decision of Duterte may be ultimately decided by the ICC itself.

"Duterte, by withdrawing from the ICC, practically admitted that he is guilty of the allegations filed against him". That is clear and was witnessed by the whole country. "So it's just implementing a policy statement that we delivered in the United Nations", he said. They are meddling. They're trying to micromanage the country.

"However, ... 'judges, prosecutors and law enforcers are reminded that in the performance of their duties, they should act with circumspection, '" it added.