Philippines moves to quit International Criminal Court: What does it mean?


The Philippines said on Wednesday it is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to what President Rodrigo Duterte called "outrageous" attacks by United Nations officials and violations of due process by the ICC.

"Duterte has directed the Executive Secretary to give notice that we are withdrawing as a State Party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court", the Philippine presidential communications office said in a statement.

The Hague-based ICC announced last month it was launching a "preliminary examination" of Duterte's bloody anti-drug crackdown that has drawn global concern.

"The withdrawal from the ICC only takes effect after a year from notification", said Celeste Mallari, a professor at the University of the Philippines Law College's Institute of International Legal Studies.

Thousands of mostly poor drug suspects have been killed under Duterte's crackdown, but he has argued that the killings do not amount to crimes against humanity or genocide.

About 4,000 mostly urban poor Filipinos have been killed by police in the past 19 months in a brutal crackdown that has alarmed the worldwide community.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and President Trump during Trump's Philippine visit.

The ICC's examination was premature, he added, and "effectively created the impression that I am to be charged ... for serious crimes falling under its jurisdiction".

However, the country has yet to file a formal notice to withdraw from the worldwide tribunal.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announces the disbandment of police operations against illegal drugs at the Malacanang palace in Manila on January 30, 2017.

Police deny allegations of murder and cover-ups and say they killed about 4,100 drug dealers in shootouts, but have nothing to do with an estimated 2,300 largely unsolved drug-related homicides.

But Article 127 of the Rome Statute also explicitly says that criminal investigations and proceedings that have been started before the withdrawal came into effect will still continue.

The preliminary examination is not an investigation, the ICC said, but a process to see if there is basis to proceed with an investigation.

The ICC can only intervene when a member state is unable or unwilling to carry out investigations and prosecute suspected perpetrators. However, the 72-year-old said that he is not planning to wait, and that the withdrawal would take place immediately. The Philippines, under previous President Benigno Aquino, ratified in 2011 the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC, giving the tribunal authority to investigate crimes on its soil.

But even as early as October 13, 2016, when Duterte had only been in office less than four months, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that she was "deeply concerned" over reports of extra-judicial killings of over 3,000 alleged drug users and pushers.

Senator Antonio Trillanes said Duterte was withdrawing "because he knows that there is no way out for him in the ICC".

The president's decision has been widely criticised by human rights advocates and his political foes.