THE International Criminal Court (ICC) has called upon the Philippines to remain a party to the Rome Statute, after President Rodrigo Duterte announced it would pull out due to investigations into the country’s bloody war on drugs.
A statement released by the ICC on Tuesday said that the Philippines’ formal decision to withdraw from the court would take one year to become effective, meaning that its current investigation into extrajudicial killings there would not be impacted.
“A withdrawal has no impact on on-going proceedings or any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective,” the statement said.
In February the International Criminal Court (ICC) officially announced it was launching a preliminary investigation into the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the body would be looking into extrajudicial killings in the Philippines as part of anti-drug operations.
Duterte had previously said he would “gladly” be convicted by the ICC, however last week announced that the Philippines would pull out of the Rome Statute immediately due to “unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person … engineered by the officials of the United Nations” and a supposed “violation of due process”.
The announcement of the investigation by the ICC was premature and implied he had already been charged for serious crimes, said Duterte.
“The Court regrets this development and encourages the Philippines to remain part of the ICC family,” said the ICC statement on Tuesday, emphasising that membership was “essential” to upholding international rule of law and ensuring accountability.
Russian ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev said Russia could “fully understand” and “deeply respect” the decision to pull out from the ICC. The court’s activities were “highly politicised” and were used as an “instrument to put political pressure on selective countries,” he said as quoted by the state-run Philippine News Agency.
Russia withdrew from the Rome Statute in 2016 after the court released a report classifying its annexation of Crimea as an occupation. China and the United States are also not members of the court.
On Wednesday, Philippines police said they had killed 13 suspected drug dealers and arrested more than 100 people in the Bulacan and Cavite provinces north of Manila, reported Reuters.
“These operations are part of our stepped-up campaign against drugs and all other forms of criminality in the province,” Bulacan police chief Romeo Caramat said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, 13 of the suspects were killed when our officers fired in self-defence shortly after the suspects who were armed with concealed guns sensed they were being entrapped and started firing.”
Self-defence has been typically provided as the justification for extrajudicial killings by police amid the drug war, which Human Rights Watch claims has taken the lives of more than 12,000 people.
Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio lodged a complaint with the ICC last April claiming that Duterte had “repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously” committed crimes against humanity. The ICC has only publicly indicted 41 people from thousands of complaints since its inception in 2002.