ICC review to proceed despite PH withdrawal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 17) — The International Criminal Court (ICC) will push through with its preliminary review of the war on drugs, despite Philippines' withdrawal from the treaty.

"In the event of a withdrawal from the ICC, this decision will therefore not affect the continuation of the preliminary examination process," the ICC Office of the Prosecutor told CNN Philippines in a statement Saturday. 

It said the move will have no impact on "ongoing proceedings or any matter already under consideration by the ICC" prior to the date of the withdrawal.

It added: "Nor does it affect the continuing obligation of the State concerned to cooperate with the Court in relation to an investigation initiated before the withdrawal came into effect."

The ICC announced its intention to conduct a preliminary examination on the drug killings in the country on February 8. The court has clarified the preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process to see if there is basis to proceed with an investigation.

To abide by the court's principle of complementarity, the ICC said it will "engage with the national authorities concerned with a view to discussing and assessing any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level."

The ICC said while it expects cooperation from national authorities, preliminary examinations "can be undertaken without access to the territory." 

It will also consider all submissions and views relayed to the court during the preliminary examination of the drug war.

"While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, the Prosecutor has noted that it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extrajudicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations," the ICC said. 

The national police has pegged the drug killings at more than 4,000 while human rights groups said the number has gone beyond 13,000. 

As an independent judicial institution, the ICC has the mandate to look into cases of genocide and crimes against humanity.

"Any act that may undermine the global movement towards greater accountability for atrocity crimes and the international rule of law is, therefore, regrettable," it added.

Meanwhile, the President of the Assembly of States Parties O-Gon Kwon on Friday expressed concern over the country's withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC.

"I regret this development. A State Party withdrawing from the Rome Statute would negatively impact our collective efforts towards fighting impunity", Kwon said. "The ICC needs the strong support of the international community to ensure its effectiveness. I encourage the Philippines to remain as a party to the Rome Statute."

Kwon said the Philippines has in fact participated actively in the Assembly of States Parties since becoming a State Party in 2011.

The withdrawal from the Rome Statute is a turnaround from an earlier statement, when President Rodrigo Duterte said he welcomed the ICC probe and that he would speak to an ICC representative one-on-one.

The President later instructed the police force to not cooperate with the international investigators, and denounced statements by international human rights experts against the drug war.

READ: Duterte: ICC has no jurisdiction over me in drug war probe