Philippines justifies withdrawal from ICC

Groups Duterte can’t evade accountability by quitting court

Duterte also rejected the ICC rule that says a withdrawal from the body requires a one-year waiting period, concluding that the Philippines is out "effective immediately".

"As stated earlier, the International Criminal Courts Special Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda gave a premature public announcement of a preliminary examination thereby creating the impression that I am likely to be charged before the International Criminal Court, violating, therefore, the presumption of innocence accorded me by the Constitution". He denounced what he described as efforts to label him a heartless violator of human rights, and alleged that the court, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations were biased against him in particular and the Philippines in general.

The ICC can only intervene in a member state when that state is unable or unwilling to carry out investigations and prosecute suspected perpetrators.

"The decision to withdraw is the Philippines' principled stand against those who would politicise and weaponise human rights", the letter said.

"An worldwide law can not supplant, prevail, or diminish a domestic law", said Duterte, who is also a lawyer.

Mr Duterte's chief legal counsel, Mr Salvador Panelo, said the president was "definitely not afraid" of an investigation from The Hague court.

The ICC acknowledged that the Philippines has the right to withdraw but maintained that the pullout would not have any effect on any ongoing proceeding prior to the effectivity of the withdrawal.

The Philippines has given official notice to the United Nations that it will exit the treaty underpinning the International Criminal Court, the government said Friday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque cautioned that there might be an "avalanche" of countries leaving the ICC while other nations are likely to refuse to join the global court now.

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In a January report, Human Rights Watch said Duterte's "war on drugs" has led to the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos, mostly urban poor.

"The government affirms its commitment to fight against impunity for atrocity crimes, notwithstanding its withdrawal from the Rome Statute, especially since the Philippines has a national legislation punishing atrocity crimes", the letter said.

Duterte has insisted that the ICC has no jurisdiction over him.

Police say they have killed about 4,100 drug dealers in shootouts during official operations. He added that he already brought this matter up before the ICC but it paid no heed to him.

"From what I can see, the International Criminal Court has more to lose following our withdrawal... Detaching from the Rome Statute is abandoning a global bastion for the protection of human rights", Lagman said.

"This is the beginning of the end of the court", he said, adding that the ICC would have no jurisdiction over the Philippines, and it was unlikely Mr Duterte would ever be handed over to the court.

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Article 127 of the Rome Statute states that even if a party withdraws from the treaty, it "shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this Statute while it was a Party to the Statute, including any financial obligations which may have accrued".

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