Philippines says its exit marks ‘beginning of the end’ for International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court had opened a preliminary examination had been opened into President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs, to look into whether crimes against humanity had been committed. (Reuters)
Updated 15 March 2018

Philippines says its exit marks ‘beginning of the end’ for International Criminal Court

MANILA: The Philippines said on Thursday its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) could be “the beginning of the end” for the institution, as more countries would follow suit and non-members would be discouraged from joining.
The announcement to withdraw comes five weeks after a court prosecutor said a preliminary examination had been opened into President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs, to look into whether crimes against humanity had been committed.
But according to Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, that examination “violates the very fundamental basis by which we gave our consent to be bound by the ICC.”
ICC prosecutors have yet to comment on the announcement.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Duterte said UN special rapporteurs were trying to “paint me as a ruthless and heartless violator of human right,” and the ICC had acted prematurely and created the impression he would be charged with serious crimes.
Roque said Duterte believes there is a “conspiracy” among lobby groups and the United Nations, to which he said the ICC is perceived to be allied, and wants to indict him “in the court of public opinion.”
“The ICC has lost a strong ally in Asia,” Roque told a media briefing.
“No new countries will join because we are recognized as probably the number one defender of human rights and democracy in the world,” added Roque, a lawyer and prominent advocate for the Philippines joining the ICC in 2011.
Duterte’s opponents wasted no time in accusing him of flip-flopping, pointing out that he had repeatedly dared the ICC to indict him and said he would “rot in jail” to defend a war on drugs during which police have killed thousands of people.
They said Duterte’s decision was an admission of guilt and a sign that he was panicking.
Human rights and jurist groups condemned him for what they saw as an attempt to evade justice and accountability, and said a withdrawal was pointless, because jurisdiction applied retroactively, for the period of membership.
In an interview with ANC news channel early on Thursday, Roque warned of an “avalanche of other states leaving.”
“This is the beginning of the end of the court,” he said, adding that the ICC would have no jurisdiction over the Philippines, and it was unlikely Duterte would ever be handed over to the court.
Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said Duterte felt the ICC had become “a tool of oppression, a tool of harassment.”
Jude Sabio, the lawyer who filed the ICC complaint last year, told ANC that the issue of an arrest warrant for the president would be a “big triumph of justice.”


Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

Updated 06 August 2020

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

  • Security crackdown as more than 7,400 candidates contest twice-delayed election

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect 225 members to its 9th Parliament amid tight security and health precautions to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The polls were twice-delayed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the assembly in March and postponed polls scheduled for April due to the outbreak, before finally deciding on Aug. 5 as the date for general elections.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Sri Lanka Elections Commission (EC), said police had been given “shooting orders” in case of security breaches and strict health protocols had been introduced at polling booths.

Deshapriya said that all 12,985 polling booths had been sanitized as a preventive measure.

The elections were completed at an estimated cost of $48.6 million, up from the $37.8 million spent during last year’s presidential polls.

Speaking to Arab News on Wednesday, Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole, an EC member, said that a 60 percent turnout by noon was a “good sign of voters’ response.”

“Our voters are matured and informed now, and they will choose whom they want irrespective of any racial or religious differences,” he said, adding that there were fewer poll-related complaints this year compared with previous elections.

There were 46 registered political parties and 313 independent groups vying for the 225-seat parliament, with a total of 7,452 candidates in the fray – 3,652 fielded by 46 parties and 3,800 representing 313 independent groups.

According to the EC, nearly 16,263,885 registered voters could make their choice at the elections.

At this election, 196 members are to be elected at the district level under the proportional representation system to the 225-member parliament, while 29 members will be chosen from the National List. Under the 1978 constitution, the members are elected to the 9th Parliament.

Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni, general director of health services in Colombo, credited the voters for “lending their cooperation in full to make it a grand success.” At the same time, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said there were no reports of violence from any part of the island.

“There were minor scuffles on the eve of the polls in some parts of the island which were settled then and there,” he added.

Ismathul Rahman, 57, from the coastal town of Negombo, told Arab News that this year people were “keen to elect the right people” for their respective electorate as it was “crucial for the country’s economy.”

“It was a peaceful poll without any remarkable incidents of violence. The EC has managed the show well,” said Khalid Farook, 70, former president of the All-Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, Wednesday.