MANILA - The International Criminal Court is likely to continue investigating President Rodrigo Duterte for alleged crimes against humanity even after the Philippines' withdrawal from the tribunal takes effect a week from now, a rights lawyer said Sunday.
The Hague-based ICC launched last year a preliminary examination into Duterte's supposed role in the alleged death squad killings in Davao City, where he ruled as mayor for over 2 decades. He is facing a separate complaint before the court over his anti-narcotics drive that has killed thousands.
The cases prompted Duterte in May 2018 to withdraw the Philippines from the Rome Statute, which created the ICC. Manila's split from ICC takes effect next Sunday.
"There is a large possibility that the President of the Philippines... and other officials behind the drug war killings may still be investigated by the ICC prosecutors even after March 17," said lawyer Ruben Carranza, reparative justice director at the International Center for Transitional Justice.
"There are precedents where even after the withdrawal of a state from the ICC, a case that was investigated by the prosecutors continued," he told ANC.
Carranza cited as an example the case of Burundi, whose withdrawal from ICC did not stop a preliminary examination into state agents' alleged widespread attacks against civilians.
Duterte has argued that the Rome Statute is “not effective nor enforceable” in the Philippines because it was not published locally.
This claim, however, is "a really embarrassing legal position to take," said Carranza.
Manila, he pointed out, contributes money to the ICC and had nominated a sitting judge.
But apart from the ICC, 2 other remedies that Duterte's accusers can resort to are the creation of an investigation mechanism by the United Nations to examine the drug war; or the exercise of universal jurisdiction by states that have the power to investigate foreign leaders.
The UN, he noted, created investigation mechanisms for war-torn Syria and Myanmar's alleged forced eviction of Rohingya Muslims.
The US, meanwhile, is among states that can exercise universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity and war crimes, which it did in investigating the Marcos regime, he said.