Philippines Pullout From ICC Won't Block Justice for 'Drug War'

Cheryl Sanders
March 20, 2019

Under the treaty, withdrawal is only effective one year after a country gives written notice of its decision to the United Nations secretary-general.

Despite the Philippines' pullout, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she would continue her examinations on the accusations against Duterte.

Manila moved to quit after the body launched a preliminary examination in 2018 into President Rodrigo Duterte's drug crackdown that has killed thousands and drawn worldwide censure.

Specifically, it has been alleged that since 1 July 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing.

In a press release, Assembly president O-Gon Kwon of the Republic of Korea said he is hopeful that the departure of the Philippines from the Rome Statute is only temporary "and that it will re-join the Rome Statute family in the future".

The secretary of state said visas could also be withheld from ICC personnel involved in conducting probes of U.S. allies, specifically Israel.

Kwon noted, "the Assembly of States Parties, comprising more than 120 States from all regions of the world, is fully committed to the Court's mandate: to help put an end to impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the global community". The Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines later revealed that more communications on Duterte and his drug war were filed before the ICC, though it did not name who the parties were.

Burundi in 2017 became the first ever nation to leave the court, which was founded in 2002. The US government would clearly be able to investigate such violations in Afghanistan, but whether or not they've proven willing to do so is hotly debated, based on how often such allegations are just quietly dismissed in internal investigations. One of its previous proponents, Harry Roque, later served as Duterte's spokesperson - but he now echoes the government line that killings are not state sanctioned and local courts are capable of acting on them.

"The best way to move forward is to cooperate in ICC's preliminary examination and demonstrate its commitment in ending impunity, rather than blocking avenues in seeking justice - and perhaps reconsider its withdrawal from the Rome Statute as a stronger sign of its dedication to the rule of law and human rights", De Guia said.

A representative of an organization of ICC member states issued a statement on Friday, saying that the court is an independent and impartial judicial institution, and that it will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate.

Another legal expert, senatorial candidate Chel Diokno who founded the De La Salle University College of Law, warned that the withdrawal virtually gives the Duterte administration carte blanche impunity, as it "deprives... citizens of one remedy to grave and extraordinary crimes..."

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