Philippines to leave ICC over drug war inquiry

Sunday March 17 2019

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By AFP
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The Philippines was poised to officially quit the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Sunday, though the beleaguered tribunal has pledged to pursue its examination of possible crimes in the government's deadly drug war.

Manila's withdrawal is to become final a year after it told the United Nations that it was quitting the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, the second nation to do so.

Burundi in 2017 became the first ever nation to leave the court, which was founded in 2002.

In a wave of unprecedented defections, other African nations -- Zambia, South Africa, Kenya and Gambia -- have also made moves to quit or expressed interest in withdrawing as they accused the court of being biased against Africans.

Just a handful

However, the court this month got a boost when Malaysia officially joined, making it one of just a handful of Asian members.

"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 Philippine government and the ICC on Sunday had yet to comment on the withdrawal's effectivity.

Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte. PHOTO |

Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte. PHOTO | AFP

The departure of the Philippines follows the court being hit in recent years by high-profile acquittals and moves 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.

President 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.

Climate of fear

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

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

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.

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