Philippines due to leave ICC over drug war inquiry

Advocates and families affected by drug-related killings are calling on the ICC to continue the preliminary examination of the information against Duterte. (AP)
Updated 17 March 2019
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Philippines due to leave ICC over drug war inquiry

  • The withdrawal is to become final a year after it told the UN that it was quitting the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal
  • Duterte’s drug war is his signature policy initiative and he defends it fiercely, especially from international critics

MANILA: The Philippines was poised to officially quit the International Criminal Court on Sunday, though the beleaguered tribunal has pledged to pursue its examination of possible crimes in the government’s deadly drug war.
Manila’s withdrawal is to become final a year after it told the United Nations that it was quitting the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, the second nation to do so.
“The Secretary-General... informed all concerned states that the withdrawal will take effect for the Philippines on 17 March,” UN spokesperson Eri Kaneko told AFP on Friday.
The Philippine government and the ICC on Sunday had yet to comment on the withdrawal’s effectivity.
The departure of the Philippines follows the court being hit in recent years by high-profile acquittals and moves by several nations to drop out.
Manila moved to quit after the body launched a preliminary examination in 2018 into President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug crackdown that has killed thousands and drawn international censure.
Duterte’s drug war is his signature policy initiative and he defends it fiercely, especially from international critics like Western leaders and institutions which he says do not care about his country.
However, court officials have said the preliminary probe launched by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in February 2018 into possible crimes against humanity in the drug war would continue.
Under the court’s rules, any matter under consideration before a nation leaves the court is still under its jurisdiction.

Duterte has made it clear his government will not cooperate with the ICC in any way.
“The court “can never acquire jurisdiction over my person, not in a million years,” he said in a speech on Wednesday.
Rights group Amnesty International said on Sunday the withdrawal should prompt the UN Human Rights Council to probe the killings.
“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,” said Amnesty International regional director Nicholas Bequelin.
The ICC examination, which is one step before a full-blown probe, zeroes in on allegations the government has been involved in illegal killings as part of the crackdown Duterte launched in mid-2016.
Police say they have killed 5,176 users or pushers who resisted arrest, but rights groups say the actual number of dead is at least triple that number.
Critics have alleged the crackdown amounts to a war on the poor that feeds an undercurrent of impunity and lawlessness in the nation of 106 million.
The Philippines’ move to exit follows a string of setbacks for the ICC, including the January acquittal of former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo and the June 2018 not guilty verdict for former DR Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba.
Burundi in 2017 became the first ever nation to leave the court, which was founded in 2002.
In a wave of unprecedented defections, other African nations — Zambia, South Africa, Kenya and Gambia — have also made moves to quit or expressed interest in withdrawing as they accused the court of being biased against Africans.
However, the court this month got a boost when Malaysia officially joined, making it one of just a handful of Asian members.


Sri Lanka detains 18 in hunt for those behind bombings

Updated 4 min 6 sec ago
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Sri Lanka detains 18 in hunt for those behind bombings

  • Death toll has rise to 359
  • “Based on information, we raided three locations and arrested 17 suspects,” police said

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan security forces arrested 18 suspects linked to the country’s deadly Islamist Easter bombings in overnight raids, police said Wednesday.
Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the suspects were held in a search operation carried out by police and security forces using emergency powers introduced since Sunday’s attacks which left more than 359 dead.
“Based on information, we raided three locations and arrested 17 suspects,” Gunasekera said. “Another suspect was arrested at a fourth location.”
Police say they have so far taken 58 people into detention since Sunday.
Gunasekera said the raids were part of security operations to track down any individuals linked to suicide bombing strike against three churches and three hotels which the Daesh group has claimed.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed a local Islamist group, the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), for the attacks which left 359 dead and 500 injured.
The security swoop came after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that more Islamist radicals could be on the run and he could not rule out the possibility of further bombings.
“There are a few more people on the run,” Wickremesinghe said. “So we’ve got to apprehend them.”
In addition to arming security forces with powers to detain suspects for up to three months, the authorities have also imposed a night-time curfew since Sunday’s deadly attacks.