President Rodrigo Duterte (pictured) is pulling the Philippines out of the international Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague weeks after it started examining his deadly war on drugs.
Police say more than 4,100 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since Duterte began his war on drugs after taking over as president in 2016. The New York-based Human Rights Watch put the figure at 13,000 including those murdered by hired and vigilante killers.
Duterte has defended the anti-drug war saying it is to make the nation of 100 million safer.
The Hague court is empowered under a global treaty to investigate and hold tyrants and oppressive leaders accountable for their misdeeds.
Claiming he was being unfairly accused of rights violations for his anti-drug fight, Duterte said late on Tuesday that his country is breaking free from the treaty — Rome Statute — signed on December 28, 2000 and ratified on August 30, 2011 by the previous president.
Weeks ago, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda started a preliminary examination of human rights situation in the Philippines after Duterte took over as president. When Duterte had completed just a few weeks in the office, Bensouda expressed her concern over reports of extra-judicial killings of over 3,000 alleged drug users and pushers.
Duterte’s decision to withdraw from ICC came days after UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told the president to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
Duterte said UN officials have launched “baseless” attacks on him as well as his administration. UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard portrayed him as a “ruthless and heartless violator of human rights” responsible for the deaths of thousands.
The president said Callamard is trying to place him within the jurisdiction of the ICC which is unconstitutional and against the norms recognised by the statute. The Philippines is hence immediately withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute, Duterte said in a statement.
But officially quitting the ICC requires a year’s notice and it does not prevent prosecutors from examining a government’s grave abuses.
Duterte maintains that deaths occurred in the “process of legitimate police operation” and the operatives “lacked the intent to kill.” The problem is with ICC which has become a “political tool” in the hands of UN officials, Duterte said.