Human rights groups to stage rally at ICC on eve of PH pullout

Jofelle P. Tesorio, ABS-CBN News Europe Bureau

Posted at Mar 16 2019 12:59 PM

THE HAGUE - Human rights groups will stage a rally in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC) here on Saturday, March 16, the day before the effectivity of the Philippines' withdrawal from the international tribunal.
 
Among those expected to attend are members in the Netherlands of the Filipinos Against Corruption and Tyranny (FACT) and other activist and left-leaning Filipino organizations. 
 
According to a Facebook account named Unite For Justice Rally, it is meant to show support to the ICC and to “await justice for the extra-judicial killing victims” in the Philippines.
 
On March 17, 2018, the Philippines deposited a written notification of withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the Court's founding treaty, with the United Nations Secretary-General. This followed President Rodrigo Duterte's order for the Philippines to leave the tribunal after it launched an examination into allegations of mass killings in his drug war. 

The ICC said that in accordance with article 127 of the Rome Statute, the Philippines’ withdrawal will become effective one year after this date. 
 
In a press release dated March 20, 2018, the ICC said it was officially notified by the UN about the Philippines’ withdrawal on March 19, 2018. 

However, the ICC said: “A withdrawal has no impact on on-going proceedings or any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective; nor on the status of any judge already serving at the Court.”

Two petitions were filed before the Supreme Court questioning Duterte's pullout order but there has been no action on the pleas. 
 
The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute on Aug. 30, 2011. The ICC exercises its jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of the Philippines or by its nationals from Nov. 1, 2011 onwards, according to the ICC.
 
On Feb. 8, 2018, the preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines was announced by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The ICC said, “it will analyze crimes allegedly committed in this State Party since at least July 1, 2016, in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ campaign launched by the Government of the Philippines.”
 
In a Report on Preliminary Examination Activities by the ICC’s Prosecutor’s Office dated Dec. 5, 2018 that covers 10 countries with ongoing processes, the Philippines' case was categorized under Phase 2 (Subject-Matter Jurisdiction). According to the report, "it relates to whether a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been or is being committed." The Prosecutor's Office has received a total of 52 communications for the Philippine case. 
 
The report said “the Office has collected and analyzed information relevant to the overall context in which the alleged acts occurred” and "engaged and consulted with relevant stakeholders, including by holding meetings at the seat of the Court."
 
In conclusion, it said, “the prosecutor's office is continuing its assessment of the information available in order to reach a determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that the alleged crimes fall within the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court.”
 
Meanwhile, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison reiterated that by withdrawing from the ICC, President Rodrigo Duterte “tries to escape from responsibility for the mass murders being carried out by his death squads”.
 
He added: “The criminal culpability of Duterte is beyond doubt. Publicly, he incites the police and military to commit the murders, offers a cash reward for the kills and guarantees presidential protection and immunity to his criminal accomplices in authority.”

The government has many times defended the drug war, saying drug suspects slain in the campaign had resisted arrest.