MANILA, Philippines – The International Commission of Jurists urged the Philippine government to reconsider what the ICJ called its “hasty and ill-conceived” decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a statement on Monday, March 19, ICJ secretary general Sam Zarifi said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s grounds for the Philippines to cease as party to the Rome Statute, the ICC's founding document, are "poorly thought out."
“The submitted justifications for withdrawing from the ICC are a litany of poorly thought out pseudo-legal arguments and self-serving statements that focus on President Duterte’s fear and resentment at facing questions for the horrific campaign of extrajudicial executions that his government has explicitly condoned,” Zarifi said.
He said in a statement that the Philippines was "made to believe that the principle of complementarity shall be observed, that the principle of due process and the presumption of innocence as mandated by our Constitution and the Rome Statue shall prevail, and that the legal requirement of publication to make the Rome Statute enforceable shall be maintained.”
Duterte insisted that the withdrawal should take effect immediately even if the process will take effect only one year after the submission of a letter of withdrawal to the United Nations Secretary-General. (READ: What the Rome Statute says about withdrawing from the Int'l Criminal Court)
Reflect badly on PH
The ICJ, composed of at least 60 distinguished judges and lawyers from all over the world, warned Duterte saying that the withdrawal will reflect badly on the country’s commitment to justice.
“We consider that the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute would not only be a setback to the protection of human rights in the country, but also send a message that the Philippines is turning its back on the rule of law and international justice,” the commission said in a letter sent to the President.
The withdrawal comes after the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor announced it would begin preliminary examinations into the alleged crimes committed under Duterte’s war on drugs.
Duterte, however, said that this was a “brazen display of ignorance of the law” because the court has no jurisdiction over the Philippines or him. According to ICJ, Duterte is “now trying to avoid accountability under international law.”
“There is no indication so far of a genuine, thorough, prompt, impartial, and independent investigations of these crimes in the Philippines, and the apparent unwillingness of the authorities to do so is one of the grounds on which the ICC can and should assert jurisdiction to undertake its own investigation,” Zarifi said.
“Instead of engaging in legal maneuvers to facilitate impunity, President Duterte must unequivocally denounce extrajudicial killings, whether of alleged criminals or of any person in the Philippines, and allow a proper investigation of these crimes,” he added.
Read the full ICJ letter to President Rodrigo Duterte:
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.