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Duterte mulls following Russia in cutting ties with ICC

In this September 2016 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte addresses a crowd at Malacañan Palace. PPD/Robinson Ninal, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte might follow Russia's lead in cutting the country's ties with the International Criminal Court a month after its prosecutor criticized the Philippines over summary killings in the war against illegal drugs.

Speaking to the media on Thursday prior to departing for Peru, Duterte cried foul over the international court's notice to the Philippines.

"I might follow (Russia). Why? Tayo lang ang maliit na binugbog ng mga walanghiya," Duterte said, adding that he is not privy to Russia's reasons for withdrawal.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Duterte has expressed admiration for, instructed his government to leave the treaty. Russia, however, has not ratified the Rome Statutes, which established the ICC, making its exit merely symbolic.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has ratified the international treaty in 2011 when it was hailed as a deterrent against genocide and other state-sponsored heinous crimes.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in October called the reported killings of more than 3,000 drug dealers and users in the Philippines at the start of Duterte's term "worrying," and vowed to follow developments in the country in the following weeks.

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"Extra-judicial killings may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court if they are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to a State policy to commit such an attack," Bensouda said in a statement issued in The Hague.

While he was in Brunei in October, Duterte publicly asked the Hague-based ICC not threaten him by launching an investigation into the war on drugs, saying he is "willing to rot in jail for Filipinos."

The United Nations, the United States, and even the European Union have similarly expressed concern over extrajudicial killings, which the Philippine government seems to condone.

Withdrawing from the ICC

The Philippines, as a party to the Rome Statutes, can follow three other African countries in expressing its intent to back out from the treaty by notifying the United Nations secretary-general through a letter.

A clause in the Rome Statutes says the withdrawal may take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification, unless a later date is specified.

Any state seeking to withdraw, however, is not excused from ICC obligations, investigations and proceedings which arise from incidents that occurred while the state was still a party to the treaty.

 The Philippines' ratification of the statute in 2011 was seen as a step in upholding a rules-based international system, human rights law and humanitarian law. — with reports from Kristian Javier

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