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Relatives of victims of drug-related killings remembering their dead. Relatives of victims of drug-related killings remembering their dead.   (ANSA)

ICC: initial probe will continue despite Philippine withdrawal

The Philippines has withdrawn from the International Criminal Court but the prosecutor of the Hague-based court said it can still continue to examine the country’s atrocities during its membership period.

By Robin Gomes

Even though the Philippines has withdrawn from the International Criminal Court, the prosecutor of the Hague-based court said that the nation can still be probed for crimes against humanity.

The formal withdrawal of the Philippines from the Hague court took effect on Sunday, becoming the second nation to do so after Burundi in 2017.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement on Monday the ICC continued to have jurisdiction over possible crimes committed during the period the country was a member.

Bensouda has been examining whether thousands of extrajudicial killings allegedly committed during President Rodrigo Duterte's crackdown on drugs are sufficient to warrant a formal investigation.

Over 5000 drug-related deaths

More than 5,000 suspected drug dealers, addicts and innocent people have been reportedly killed in police anti-narcotics operations since Duterte came to power in June 2016 on the promise of a brutal war on drugs.

Rights groups and critics say some of the killings were summary executions. Police deny such allegations, saying they had to use deadly force because the suspects were armed and resisted arrest.

Refusal to cooperate

The Philippines unilaterally withdrew from the ICC in March 2018 over what Duterte called "outrageous" attacks and violations of due process by it.

Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said the ICC had no basis to continue its preliminary examination and the government would not cooperate with it.  "They cannot enter here if that is their purpose, to investigate. You are already intruding into our sovereignty," Panelo told a regular news conference on Tuesday.  "We have already pointed out that in this country we have a judicial system that is robust and functional and very effective," the presidential spokesman said. The ICC procedure was "political persecution" of Duterte, Panelo added.

19 March 2019, 14:36