MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines said yesterday that its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) could be “the beginning of the end” for the institution, as more countries would follow suit and non-members would be discouraged from joining.
The announcement to withdraw comes five weeks after a court prosecutor said a preliminary examination had been opened into President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs, to look into whether crimes against humanity had been committed.
But according to Mr Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, that examination “violates the very fundamental basis by which we gave our consent to be bound by the ICC”.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Mr Duterte said UN special rapporteurs were trying to “paint me as a ruthless and heartless violator of human right”, and the ICC had acted prematurely and created the impression he would be charged with serious crimes.
Mr Roque said Mr Duterte believes there is a “conspiracy” among lobby groups and the UN, to which he said the ICC is perceived to be allied, and wants to indict him “in the court of public opinion”.
“No new countries will join because we are recognized as probably the number one defender of human rights and democracy in the world,” added Mr Roque.
Mr Duterte’s opponents accused him of flip-flopping, pointing out that he had repeatedly dared the ICC to indict him and said he would “rot in jail” to defend a war on drugs during which police have killed thousands of people.
Mr Roque yesterday warned of an “avalanche of other states leaving”.
“This is the beginning of the end of the court,” he said, adding that the ICC would have no jurisdiction over the Philippines, and it was unlikely Mr Duterte would ever be handed over to the court.