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Amnesty International: PHL's withdrawal from ICC too late to stop probe vs. alleged EJKs

An international human rights advocacy group on Wednesday stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) would not stop the tribunal's probe into the alleged state-sponsored killings in the country.

“Duterte cannot stop international accountability in the Philippines simply by deleting his signature from the Rome Statute," said Amnesty International's regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific James Gomez in a statement.

“Fortunately for those victims, Duterte’s announced withdrawal comes too late to stop the ICC’s preliminary examination and the Philippines’ obligations towards the court," Gomez added.

Duterte made the decision, citing the “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous" attacks against him and his governance and the alleged attempt of the ICC prosecutor to place him under the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

Following this, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the ICC can no longer investigate the supposed slays. 

Meanwhile, Gomez slammed the Chief Executive's decision, noting that this depicts how high-ranking government officials in the Philippines have taken the "cowardly option" of trying to evade justice.

“This is a misguided and deeply regrettable move by President Duterte, and the latest signal that powerful individuals in the Philippines are more interested in covering up their own potential accountability for killings than they are in ensuring justice for the many victims of the country’s brutal ‘war on drugs,'" Gomez stated.

Gomez pointed out that if the Philippines stands by its belief that the international tribunal has no jurisdiction over the country's situation, the government must challenge it, still, before the ICC.

“If the Philippines truly believed that the ICC did not have jurisdiction over crimes committed in the country, they should challenge that in the proper way – which is at the ICC," Gomez said.

The ICC previously announced that they would conduct a preliminary examination as regards to the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country in relation to the government's violent war against illegal drugs.

The Court has the power to investigate allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes only if local courts are unable or unwilling to do so, but Malacañang said this does not apply to the situation of the Philippines. — BAP, GMA News