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.”


Russia warns Belarus will pay price for contractors’ arrests

Updated 05 August 2020

Russia warns Belarus will pay price for contractors’ arrests

  • Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said that the Belarusian leadership has turned bilateral ties into “small change in the election campaign”
  • Medvedev described the arrested contractors as part of a “simple political technology — to create an enemy image and to achieve a political result using that enemy image”

MOSCOW: Russia’s security chief described the arrest of 33 Russian private military contractors in Belarus as a presidential campaign stunt and warned Wednesday that it would have grave consequences for ties between the two neighbors and allies.
Authorities arrested the Russian contractors outside the capital of Minsk last week on charges of planning to stage mass riots, amid an upsurge of opposition protests ahead of the Sunday election — in which Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is seeking a sixth term.
Russia has demanded the release of the contractors for a private firm, saying they only were in Belarus because they missed a connecting flight to another country. The government in Minsk has further irked Moscow by raising the possibility that some of the contractors could be handed over to Ukraine, which wants them on charges of fighting alongside Russia-backed separatists.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, sharply raised the stakes in the dispute Wednesday, saying that the Belarusian leadership has turned bilateral ties into “small change in the election campaign.”
Without mentioning Lukashenko by name, Medvedev described the arrested contractors as part of a “simple political technology — to create an enemy image and to achieve a political result using that enemy image.”
“It’s not only offensive, it’s very sad,” said Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 and then as prime minister for the next eight years, before becoming No. 2 in the Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin. “And it will entail sad consequences, too.”
Throughout his 26 years in office, the authoritarian Lukashenko has relied on Russian subsidies and loans to shore up his nation’s Soviet-style economy but fiercely resisted Moscow’s push for control over Belarus’s economic assets.
The Kremlin turned the heat up on the Belarusian president earlier this year by withdrawing some of the subsidies and warning the government it would have to accept closer economic and political integration to continue receiving Russian energy at a discount.
Lukashenko denounced Moscow’s position as part of Russia’s alleged efforts to deprive Belarus of its independence.
The 65-year-old president alleged in a state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday that another group of “militants” had been sent to southern Belarus, but gave no details. He warned Moscow against trying to fuel tensions in his country, saying that the instability could spread to Russia.
In a move certain to anger the Kremlin even more, Lukashenko had a phone call Wednesday with the president of Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for Belarus to hand over 28 of the arrested Russians so they can be prosecuted for allegedly fighting alongside Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Belarusian authorities claimed the arrested contractors worked for the Wagner company. The private military firm is linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman who was indicted in the United States for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Wagner has allegedly deployed hundreds of military contractors to eastern Ukraine, Syria and Libya.