Groups: Withdrawal from ICC wonât protect Duterte from being prosecuted
President Rodrigo Duterte, in his speech during his visit to the troops at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Sta. Maria, Zamboanga City on March 10, 2018, tells the troops to remain loyal to flag of the Philippines.
Presidential photo/Albert Alcain

Groups: Withdrawal from ICC won’t protect Duterte from being prosecuted

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - March 14, 2018 - 6:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — The decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw from the Rome Statute does not mean that he will be free from the country’s obligations when it was still a party to the treaty, human rights groups said.

Duterte on Wednesday announced the withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute, the international treaty that created the International Criminal Court, “effectively immediately.” He cited the “outrageous” attacks against him and his administration and the supposedly illegal attempt by the international tribunal.

The ICC has opened its preliminary examination into the alleged extrajudicial killings linked to the brutal “war on drugs.”

In a statement sent to Philstar.com, Amnesty International Philippines said that a withdrawal from the Rome Statute would “only affect the temporal jurisdiction of the court.”

AI Philippines cited the Article 127 of the treaty, which said that the withdrawal shall take effect one year after the written notification of the withdrawal is received by the United Nations secretary-general.

“However, the Office of the Prosecutor would not be precluded from opening an investigation even if the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute and the Amnesty International believes that the Philippines would also remain under a continuing obligation to cooperate with the court even if it withdrew from the Rome Statute,” it said.

Duterte disputed this, insisting that the withdrawal should take effect immediately “for the reason that there appears to be fraud in entering such agreement.”

“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 Statute shall prevail, and that the legal requirement of publication to make the Rome Statute enforceable shall be observed,” he said.

READ: Duterte announces Philippines' withdrawal from ICC

The Hague

Rights watchdog Human Rights Watch called the country’s intention to walk away from the ICC “unfortunate.”

But Param-Preet Singh, the associate director of the HRW International Justice Program, also said that withdrawing from the Rome Statute will not protect Duterte from being prosecuted for his regime’s alleged crimes.

“But it doesn’t shut the door on the prosecutor’s scrutiny of the government’s horrendous track record of grave abuses,” Singh said.

She added: “Those responsible for ICC crimes committed in the Philippines while the country is still a member could find themselves facing justice in The Hague.”

Duterte, in his statement, also said that the Rome Statute was not effective and enforceable in the Philippines because it was not published in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

The Palace initially said early February that Duterte welcomed the ICC initial examination.

READ: Duterte cites international bias against him in pulling out of ICC 

Evasion from accountability

Local rights organization Karapatan said that Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute, which was adopted in 1998, stems from his “rabid refusal” to be subjected to any form of investigation or scrutiny.

“He and his cohorts are not being denied due process as his government did with so many urban poor dwellers, farmers and indigenous peoples killed under this regime’s campaigns yet he speaks as if he is the one who was victimized,” it said in a statement.

The group called Duterte a “coward who plays tough with words but flinches when confronted with concrete platforms for accountability.”

“This is a classic Duterte move to cheat his way out of culpability and responsibility for all the rights violations systematically committed by him and his state forces,” Karapatan said.

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