MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged other governments on Sunday to abandon the International Criminal Court, saying the world tribunal — where he’s facing a possible complaint for the thousands of killings of drug suspects under his crackdown — is “rude.”
Although the Philippine Senate has ratified the Rome Statute that established the ICC, Duterte said in a speech that the treaty was never enforced in the country because it was not published in the government journal as required by law.
As a result, Duterte said the international court can never have jurisdiction over him, “not in a million years.”
Last month, an ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced that she was opening a preliminary examination into a complaint by a Filipino lawyer of suspected extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which could amount to crimes against humanity.
The move angered Duterte, who announced Wednesday that he was withdrawing the Philippine ratification of the Rome Statute “effective immediately,” citing “a concerted effort” by Bensouda and U.N. human rights officials “to paint me as a ruthless and heartless violator of human rights.”
“You know, if it’s not published, there is no law,” Duterte said Sunday in a speech before the annual graduation of cadets at the Philippine Military Academy in northern Baguio city.
There was no reason to withdraw from “something which is not existing,” Duterte said, adding that he announced the withdrawal from the ICC treaty to draw the world’s attention to the issue he had with the international court.
“I will convince everybody now who are under the treaty at ICC: ‘Get out, get out, it’s rude,'” the brash-talking president said.
Duterte’s action came under fire from human rights groups, who said the president was trying to evade accountability by backing out of the ICC. Critics say Duterte can’t withdraw from the court by himself and may need the approval of the Senate, which ratified the Rome Statute in 2011.
Commission on Human Rights chief Chito Gascon said that the Philippines has historically been at the forefront of the fight for international justice, but that Duterte’s decision “constitutes a reversal that will be viewed as encouraging impunity to continue.”
More than 120 countries have ratified the treaty that established the court in 2002 in The Hague. The court can intervene only when a state is unable or unwilling to carry out an investigation and prosecute perpetrators of heinous crimes like crimes against humanity, genocide, aggression and war atrocities.
More than 4,000 mostly poor drug suspects have been killed under Duterte’s drug crackdown, according to the national police, although human rights groups have reported larger death tolls. Duterte argued Wednesday that the killings do not amount to crimes against humanity, genocide or similar atrocities.