Why Duterte wants PH to bolt ICC | Inquirer Opinion

Why Duterte wants PH to bolt ICC

01:06 AM November 30, 2016

Before leaving for the Apec summit in Lima, Peru, the other week, President Duterte announced that he might follow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Earlier, Putin signed a directive calling for Russia’s withdrawal from the ICC, the United-Nations-sanctioned body based in The Hague that tries genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Putin said the ICC “has failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent authoritative international tribunal.”


While Mr. Duterte has publicly expressed admiration for Putin, he has a different reason for leaving the ICC. “Tayo lang mga maliliit ang binubugbog ng mga walanghiya (It’s small countries like us who are being pummeled by those bastards),” he said.

Mr. Duterte cited the ongoing conflicts in Mosul and Aleppo, where thousands of civilians are killed, apparently forgetting that it is the Russian bombardment of Aleppo that has caused untold suffering among the city’s residents. The ICC said Russia could be committing war crimes because of its actions in Syria.


But even before Putin’s decision Mr. Duterte was already smarting. ICC chief prosecutor Fatuo Bensouda had expressed the body’s “deep concerns” for alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, and warned that those responsible could face prosecution.

“I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements from high officials of the … Philippines seem to condone such killings,” Bensouda said in a statement issued in The Hague last month.

The Philippines has been an ICC member-state since November 2011 “and as such, the Court has jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory or by nationals of the Philippines,” Bensouda said.

“Extrajudicial killings may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court if they are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack,” the ICC said.

Strangely, while the Philippines and Russia are signatories to the ICC, the United States is not. It has refused to ratify the ICC that was formally established in 2002 and was ratified by 123 countries. According to the United States, the Rome Statute that established the ICC was seriously flawed because it “lacks prudent safeguards against political manipulation, possesses sweeping authority without accountability to the UN Security jurisdiction over the nationals and military personnel of nonparty states in some circumstances.”

It was then US President George W. Bush who notified the UN that America did not intend to ratify the ICC.

While America under President Barack Obama has strongly criticized Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, its record on human rights is hardly unblemished. In fact, in March 2014, or in the sixth year of Obama’s tenure, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a damaging report on the US government’s role in perpetuating injustices both within its borders and abroad.


That month in Geneva, America was questioned on its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The UN committee’s findings condemned America’s lack of accountability for disappearance, torture, and unlawful killings of terrorism suspects, and its failure to apply the ICCPR rules that led to racial disparities in law enforcement and the incarceration of minorities (particularly blacks and Latinos), “effectively denying them basic human rights throughout the criminal justice process.”

This includes severe sentencing such as the death penalty; improper use of solitary confinement, and denial of civil rights following incarceration, the UN committee report said.

By not ratifying the ICC, what right does America have to question the human rights violations of other countries?

Alito L. Malinao is a former diplomatic reporter and news editor of the Manila Standard. He now teaches journalism part-time at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, and is the author of the book “Journalism for Filipinos.”

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TAGS: International Criminal Court, Rodrigo Duterte, Russia
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