Philippines set to leave ICC over drug war inquiry

MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines is poised to officially quit the International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday, though the beleaguered tribunal has pledged to pursue its examination of possible crimes in the government’s deadly drug war.

Manila’s withdrawal is to become final a year after it told the United Nations that it was quitting the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, the second nation to do so.

“The Secretary-General… informed all concerned states that the withdrawal will take effect for the Philippines on March 17,” UN spokesperson Eri Kaneko told AFP.

The departure of the Philippines follows the court being hit in recent years by high-profile acquittals and moves by several nations to drop out.

Manila moved to quit after the body launched a preliminary examination in 2018 of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug crackdown that has killed thousands and drawn international censure.

Duterte’s drug war is his signature policy initiative and he defends it fiercely, especially from international critics like Western leaders and institutions which he says don’t care about his country.

However, court officials have said the preliminary probe launched by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in February 2018 into possible crimes against humanity in the drug war would continue.

Under the court’s rules, any matter under consideration before a nation leaves the court is still under its jurisdiction.

Duterte has made it clear his government will not cooperate with the ICC in any way.

“The court can never acquire jurisdiction over my person. Not in a million years,” he said in a speech last Wednesday.