Justice is coming for President Rodrigo Duterte, the Human Rights Watch said, after the Philippine leader announced he is pulling his country out of the International Criminal Court amid strong calls for an external probe into his deadly drug war.
“Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is afraid,” Phelim Kine, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division, said in a commentary published on Asia Times.
Duterte, who is notorious for his defiance of international pressure, was elected by a landslide in 2016 on a brutal law and order platform.
Human rights monitors say most of the fatalities in the government’s anti-narcotic drive are extrajudicial killings committed by cops, adding that Duterte could be liable for crimes against humanity for giving police the “license to kill.”
On Thursday, Duterte said he was withdrawing the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, more than a month after the Hague-based court announced it would conduct a preliminary examination into a communication filed by a lawyer accusing him of crimes against humanity.
The maverick leader cited what he called “outrageous attacks” by United Nations officials, as well as the ICC’s supposed violation of due process and presumption of innocence, as reasons for his decision to leave the ICC “immediately.”
The tough-talking president’s move was a dramatic turnaround from his previous vow to “rot in jail” or be indicted by the ICC to defend his bloody war on drugs.
For Kine, Duterte’s announcement was an attempt to end any chance of being tried in The Hague, adding that such a move should only heighten the urgency for a separate UN-led probe into his signature anti-drug campaign.
“Duterte has good reason to be afraid of being implicated in possible crimes against humanity,” Kine stressed.
“A UN inquiry would add to the international pressure on the Duterte government to stop the killings and to cooperate with efforts to bring those responsible to justice, including before the ICC,” he added.
On Friday, Teodoro Locsin, the Philippines’ permanent representative to the UN, sent a letter notifying UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of the government’s decision to withdraw as a member of the ICC.
In a statement, the public affairs unit of the ICC urged the Philippines to reconsider its decision, saying any act that may set back the global movement towards accountability for atrocious crimes and respect for international law is “regrettable.”
Manila’s departure from the international crimes tribunal will take effect one year after the date of the notification.
However, under the Rome Statute, which the Philippines ratified in 2011, the withdrawal would not shield Duterte from possible indictment, as criminal investigations and proceedings that started at the time the country was a state party will still continue.
“Duterte won the 2016 presidential election in the Philippines with the slogan ‘Change is coming’… Duterte clearly now dreads the likelihood that justice is coming,” Kine also said. – PhilStar-