In Brief

Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte calls for ICC mass exodus

‘Trump of the East’ has withdrawn from court after it launched an inquiry into extrajudicial killings

The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has called for other countries to follow his lead and stage a mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.

Last week, Duterte announced the Philippines would be withdrawing from the ICC, the world’s only permanent war crimes court, following what he called “outrageous” comments by UN officials and violation of due process. The Philippines is only the second country to leave the court, after Burundi announced it was departing last year.

It comes after the ICC launched an inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Duterte as part of his brutal anti-drugs campaign.

According to official figures, more than 4,000 people have been killed by the police in anti-drugs operations since Duterte came to power 18 months ago, although many believe the real figure could be double that.

Duterte’s government said the decision to withdraw was a “principled stand against those who politicise and weaponise human rights”. The decision triggered “warnings from a top tribunal official that it would harm global efforts to end impunity for the world's worst crimes”, reports the New Straits Times.

Since securing a landslide victory in 2016 on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of criminals and eradicate drugs from Philippine society, Duterte has earned the nickname the Trump of the East for his outspoken and at times confrontational approach.

He has authorised police to crack down on illegal drug use, urging them to kill suspects and promising to protect them from prosecution. Duterte also endorsed vigilante gangs and claimed to be personally responsible for extrajudicial killings. He has been accused of triggering mass murder.

Despite widespread international condemnation, Duterte’s “abrasive tongue and brutal methods have kept him popular in the Philippines, where he enjoys high approval ratings and legislative support”, says The Guardian.

The Philippines only ratified the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, in 2011. Since taking power, Duterte has called it “bullshit”, “hypocritical” and “useless”, and has threatened to withdraw his country multiple times, even daring the court to bring him to trial.

However, lawyers told Reuters “the withdrawal does not insulate Duterte from a possible indictment, as the ICC’s jurisdiction retroactively covers the period during which a country was a member of the court”.

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