Philippines formally withdraws from International Criminal Court

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Manilla, March 16 (IANS) The Philippines on Friday informed the UN Secretary-General of its intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Teodoro Locsin, the permanent representative of the Philippines to the UN, tweeted that he had submitted the letter to the Chef de Cabinet of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and shared a photo of the document, reports Efe news.

The letter said the Philippines was withdrawing from the Rome Statute – which established the ICC in 1998 – as a “principled stand against those who politicise and weaponise human rights”.

On Wednesday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had announced his country’s withdrawal from the ICC, accusing the body of “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” against him and his administration, due to the ICC’s attempts to investigate his anti-drugs campaign, which has led to over 12,000 deaths, according to Human Rights Watch.

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Under Article 127 of the Rome Statute, a state party’s withdrawal from the treaty can only take effect a year after the written notification is received by the UN Secretary-General.

The US and Russia withdrew from the Statute years after signing it, while China, India and the majority of Asian nations never ratified the treaty and are not part of the Hague-based court.

In April 2017, a Filipino lawyer filed a lawsuit against Duterte before the ICC, accusing him of mass murder during his 22-year tenure as the mayor of Davao, and also during the anti-drugs crackdown that began after he took office on June 30, 2016.

The court began a preliminary probe on February 8 to establish if there were grounds to open a case about the alleged extra-judicial killings during the campaign.

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In recent months, the Philippine government has lashed out against UN rapporteurs on human rights, issuing threats against officials such as Agnes Callamard, who is investigating extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

The ICC has urged the Philippines to reconsider its decision, since it is one of the few Asian countries that have ratified the Rome Statute, while human rights organisations said a withdrawal from the ICC does not exonerate Duterte from his alleged crimes.

–IANS

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