Split from ICC might be better for PH, says Yasay
LIMA, Peru — The Philippines may be better off splitting from the International Criminal Court (ICC) — as President Rodrigo Duterte suggests following in Russia’s footstep — if the tribunal interferes with the government’s bloody war on drugs, the country’s top diplomat said here Thursday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said he understood Duterte’s threat of withdrawing from the ICC to be in the context of the court “trying to interfere in our internal affairs” by suggesting the President could be liable for genocide if it were proven he sanctioned the mass killing of crime suspects.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) ministerial meetings here, Yasay said the President understood fully well that the ICC’s role was only “supplementary” to a country’s criminal justice system.
“It cannot supervene or be higher than our national criminal justice system. It should be simply be supportive and supplemental,” he told reporters.
“But the way I as a lawyer see it, the way our President as a lawyer sees it, it seems to indicate that the ICC would like to go beyond what is authorized under its charter,” Yasay said.
Withdrawing from the ICC would make sense “if it continues to [interfere] despite our assurances we’ve given that we’re not violating human rights, or that we’re not involved as a country or as a state in extrajudicial killings,” he said.
Yasay cited a statement issued in October by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who said her office was watching for signs of officials “ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing” to crimes against humanity in the Philippines.
“I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements of high officials of the Republic of the Philippines seem to condone such killings and further seem to encourage state forces and civilians alike to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force,” she said.
The statement came on the heels of reports that thousands of drug suspects had been killed in vigilante-style executions since Duterte assumed office.
The Philippines is a signatory to the ICC, which holds jurisdiction over cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Yasay said Mr. Duterte had already explained that extrajudicial killings “have not been done by the police agencies involved in this war against illegal drugs but more by the criminal elements themselves (who are) trying to interdict the other and prevent them from ratting against each other.”
For all its tough words, he said the ICC failed in “being tough on criminals who destroy our future, who break really apart our families and our societies… and snuff our the hopes of our people as a nation.”
Yasay, however, said Bensouda’s statement might not be representative of the ICC as a whole.
“I have spoken to the president of ICC myself during the general assembly meetings and I was surprised that now there are certain elements there that would seem to run counter to what the President has said. [I was told] it’s not something they are interested to pursue,” he said.
“Then all of a sudden, when you get back here after one reason or another people are saying even the President can be prosecuted by the ICC. You know for instance that under the Constitution you cannot prosecute the president when he is sitting in office?” he said.
“An agency outside our criminal justice system can do that? That will be not be treating the country as sovereign people. That will be treating us with great disrespect,” Yasay said. CDG
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