PHILIPPINES President Rodrigo Duterte will “personally” defend himself at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his government’s deadly war on drugs, a spokesman said on Thursday.
Speaking at the Malacañang presidential palace, Harry Roque said Duterte was “sick and tired” of being accused of crimes against humanity, as he claimed the ICC Office of the Prosecutor was starting preliminary examination into extrajudicial killings as part of the drugs war.
“The President has said that if need be, he will argue his case personally before the International Criminal Court,” Roque said as quoted by the state-run Philippine News Agency. “This is an opportunity for him to prove that this is not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.”
Human Rights Watch estimated this month that more than 12,000 people have been killed by police and plain clothed gunmen since the anti-drug campaign began in June 2016. Official statistics put the number of dead at around 4000.
Roque said that an ICC investigation was the result of two separate “communications” from lawyer Jude Sabio and two parliamentarians, claiming that there were crimes against humanity occurring in the Philippines.
Sabio’s complaint last April claimed that Duterte had “repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously” committed crimes against humanity. Last week, Amnesty International called for an investigation by the ICC into drug war killings, claiming that “the Philippines neither can nor should try to solve its drug problems at gunpoint.”
The ICC has made no public announcement about preliminary examinations of Duterte, however.
In late 2016, the president said threats of indictment to the ICC were “bullshit” and called European lawyers “rotten” with “a brain like a pea”. He has previously threatened to withdraw the Philippines’ membership from the international legal body.
“[Duterte] will assert the legality of the war against drugs as a valid exercise of sovereign powers and therefore the element required for a crime against humanity is lacking,” said Roque on Thursday, presenting a slide show of the legal elements required for a crime against humanity.
“Because the war on drug[s] is a lawful, legitimate police operation, it cannot be characterised as an attack against civilian populations because they are civilians,” he said, noting that Duterte is a lawyer by trade.
“Obviously this is intended to embarrass the President … they will fail.”