Philippines quits ICC

The Philippines officially quit the International Criminal Court on Sunday, though the beleaguered UN-backed tribunal has pledged to pursue its examination of alleged extrajudicial killings in the government's controversial drug war.

Under court rules, Manila's withdrawal took force a year after it told the United Nations that it was quitting the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, becoming the second nation to do so.

"The Secretary-General […] informed all concerned states that the withdrawal will take effect for the Philippines on 17 March," UN spokesperson Eri Kaneko told AFP on Friday.

The departure of the Philippines follows the court being hit in recent years by high-profile acquittals and threats by several nations to drop out.

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 international censure.

The withdrawal became effective after the country’s highest court declined to overrule Duterte, dismissing an appeal by civil rights groups.

On Sunday, the president's spokesman said the nation never legally joined the treaty that underpins the court, a reference to an argument that the Philippines did not complete all the steps to formalise its adoption.

"Our position on the matter remains clear, unequivocal and inflexible: The Philippines never became a state party to the Rome Statute which created the ICC," spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

"As far as we are concerned, this tribunal is non-existent and its actions a futile exercise," he added.

Duterte's drug war is his signature policy initiative and he defends it fiercely, especially from international critics like Western leaders and institutions, which he says do not care about his country.

However, court officials have said the preliminary probe launched by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in February 2018 into possible crimes against humanity in the drug war would continue.

Under the court's rules, any matter under consideration before a nation leaves the court is still under its jurisdiction.

ICC under fire

Duterte has made it clear his government will not cooperate with the ICC in any way.

The court "can never acquire jurisdiction over my person, not in a million years," he said in a speech on Wednesday.

Rights group Amnesty International said on Sunday the withdrawal should prompt the UN Human Rights Council to probe the killings.

"Filipinos bravely challenging the 'war on drugs' or seeking justice for their loved ones need international support to help them end this climate of fear, violence and impunity," said Amnesty International regional director Nicholas Bequelin.

- Agencies 


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