Philippines: Withdrawal from the ICC must spur UN action

Responding to the withdrawal of the Philippines from the ICC, which takes effect 17 March 2019, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

“The cynical withdrawal of the Philippines from the ICC is a futile attempt to evade international justice and to halt the ICC’s work. The Court will continue to investigate those responsible for crimes committed during the so-called ‘war on drugs’ and has ways and means to investigate, even if the Philippines will not cooperate with it.

Filipinos bravely challenging the ‘war on drugs’ or seeking justice for their loved ones need international support to help them end this climate of fear, violence and impunity.
Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific

“The Philippines’ withdrawal won’t change the fact that those responsible for crimes under international law committed during the Duterte administration’s bloody anti-drugs campaign will be held to account – at the ICC or through other international justice initiatives.

“Filipinos bravely challenging the ‘war on drugs’ or seeking justice for their loved ones need international support to help them end this climate of fear, violence and impunity. States at the UN Human Rights Council must launch an independent, international investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the thousands of extrajudicial killings still being committed. President Duterte says the ‘war on drugs’ will last at least until his term ends in 2022, if not beyond. It must stop immediately and the government must adopt an approach to drugs based on a policy of health and human rights.”

Background

Thousands of people have been killed in a wave of state-sanctioned violence since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency in 2016. In February 2018, the International Criminal Court launched a preliminary examination of the crimes allegedly committed by the Philippine government in the context of the ‘war on drugs.’ The following month, in March 2018, President Duterte announced that the Philippines would withdraw from the Court. 

Under the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the Court, a withdrawal has no impact on on-going proceedings or any matter that was already under the Court’s consideration prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective.

President Duterte has taken numerous steps to encourage the killing of people linked to using or trading drugs. He has issued and publicized ‘kill lists’– setting out the names of drug suspects. He has also suggested that the murder of people suspected of using and selling drugs, whether committed by police or civilian actors, will go unpunished.

Amnesty International has repeatedly warned that President Duterte’s calls have created an environment where police and unknown armed gunmen – many of whom are believed to be linked to the police – have free rein to kill with impunity.