Withdrawal from ICC not an ‘escape hatch’ for Duterte – De Lima

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has reminded Mr. Duterte that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) would not shield him from prosecution under the Rome Statute for crimes against humanity he committed.

De Lima pointed out that the country’s unilateral withdrawal from the ICC is not an “escape hatch” for Duterte because the tribunal can still exercise its jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed by him and his henchmen before March 17, 2019.

“Duterte has the illusion that by withdrawing the Philippines from the Rome Statute, he has already escaped ICC jurisdiction,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 489.

“He can keep that illusion. In the meantime, the ICC will continue its preliminary examination, regardless of Duterte’s nervous protests and feigned confidence in his lawyers’ legal opinion on the matter,” she added.

Though the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute took effect last March 17, De Lima clarified the ICC can still investigate summary executions carried out by policemen and vigilantes, upon Duterte’s directive, from June 30, 2016 to March 16, 2019.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that her “office’s independent and impartial preliminary examination into the situation in the Philippines continues” pursuant to Article 127.2 of the Statute, despite Malacanang’s threat that ICC representatives would be prevented from entering the Philippines to investigate EJKs.

“The effectivity of the withdrawal also does not prejudice the ICC’s cognizance of the matter on the Philippine situation already under its consideration prior to withdrawal,” De Lima said.

De Lima, the staunchest critic of the administration’s war on drugs, said no amount of warped reasoning from Duterte and his errand boys would remove the fact that the Philippines was once a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

“Malacañang says that the Philippines was never bound to the Rome Statute because it was not published in the Official Gazette. It says that the ICC has never and can never acquire jurisdiction over the matter of EJKs perpetrated by the Duterte administration because the Philippines was never a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC,” she recalled.

“This is wishful thinking and warped reasoning. [I]f true to its conviction that the Philippines never became a state party to the Rome Statute, the Duterte administration should not have withdrawn, since there was nothing to withdraw,” she added.

In 2018, De Lima sought the Supreme Court’s (SC) approval to allow her to personally appear and argue on the petition that she and her colleagues filed challenging the Philippines’ unilateral decision to withdraw from the ICC. In junking the minority senators’ motion to allow De Lima to argue for the position of non-withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the SC maintained that the case will not be prejudiced if a lawyer other than De Lima argued their petition before the Court.

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