PHL’s withdrawal from ICC just made it weaker–Locsin

The Philippines, it appears, is in good company not being a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

President Duterte withdrew from the world’s first permanent international criminal court on March 16, peeved that he was apparently being crucified by the ICC over alleged human-rights violations against drug offenders.

Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. submitted the country’s letter of withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to UN Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, a representative to Secretary- General António Guterres.

In a Twitter post, Locsin said: “The International Criminal Court has grown weaker and no longer has the authority to look into alleged rights abuses in the Philippines following the country’s pullout from the Rome Statute.”

“It means, you geniuses, that now ICC has no jurisdiction over human rights violations in this country; all because hormone-deficient hysterics got their rocks off upholding the human rights of drug dealers and moral-equating selling drugs with being of a persecuted race or religion,” Locsin tweeted.

In this connection, the former Makati lawmaker also denied that the President decided on the ICC pullout out of fear of prosecution.

“The cowards here are the ICC, Agnes and her native allies, because they won’t meet the President and hear him out face to face. They expect him to just sit there and be insulted by them. A figure of speech like being ‘fed to crocodiles’ had them running for cover behind Prince Zeid,” he said.

Locsin noted the President merely tried to avoid a “rigged fight” following the insults and other attacks from some ICC and UN officials.

“Nope, he just avoided a rigged fight where one side is supposed to lie in the ring tied up, and the other side throws brickbats from the gallery, while screaming in panic whenever the guy tied up in the ring shouts insults at the gallery. It’s over,” he said.

“It makes the ICC weaker by yet another withdrawing member joining the ranks of Israel, the US, Russia and, well, China.”

The court has more than 120 member-nations, but countries that are nonmembers include the United States, China, India, Iraq, Libya, Indonesia, Yemen, Qatar and Israel.

Why is the US not a member of the ICC?

AHA Legislative Associate Matthew Bulger, in an article that appeared in the The Humanist. Com, had this theory:

Unlike other international courts, the ICCcan only prosecute individuals and not organizations or governments. This allows the court to focus on high-level government officials that are typically exempted from international prosecution for their government’s illegal actions.

Quoting Stephen Rapp, the US Ambas-sador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Bulger said one of Rapp’s key points was that long-standing political and philosophical traditions in America have prevented them from joining the ICC.

The most important of these traditions, according to Rapp, is the belief by Americans that they can better help suffering people than the international community. Rapp added that America’s ability to help others without changing their national identity or culture “will be threatened by joining an international institution that has its own laws and regulations which come from non-American societies.”

Bulger felt that a certain degree of misinformation, such as the common but mistaken belief that the ICC is a part of the much-maligned UN, “has prevented American policy-makers from advancing the relationship between the US and the ICC.”

“There is also a concern from some American lawmakers that if we as a country join the court, individuals from the global community will punish America for its aggressive foreign policy by using the ICC to prosecute American soldiers and other military actors.”

China, on the other hand, won’t support some cases being referred to the international court, but many of the ICC members are also quick to dismiss its participation.

“China may be willing to help bring war criminals to justice, but it is also important to recognize when and why it sometimes will not be,” the diplomat said.

“China is a particular concern for several reasons: its historical reservations about international interference in states’ internal affairs;  its close economic and political ties with some states targeted by the Council for possible ICC involvement, such as Sudan, Libya under Gaddafi and Syria; the power to veto ICC referrals it holds as a permanent member of the Security Council; and the general tone of assertiveness that has colored China’s foreign policy in the last few years,” said Dr. Joel Wuthnow, a research fellow in the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs within the Institute for National for Strategic Studies at NDU.

Based on these factors, the default expectation is that China is more likely to be a hindrance than a help in bringing war criminals before the ICC.

This is especially relevant to Syria, in which France and others are contemplating whether to attempt to bring an indictment against Bashar al-Assad. China has already vetoed three draft resolutions on Syria in the council this year, and championed dialogue with the Assad regime rather than coercion and punishment. “It is unlikely that either China or Russia will consent to an ICC referral of Assad.”

Moreover, although it is not a party to the Rome Statute, China nevertheless has a relatively nuanced official position regarding the institution, the diplomat added.

“Despite concerns about excessive prosecutorial discretion, the definition of  ‘crimes against humanity’
and other legal issues, [China]  claims to hold an ‘open attitude’ about the court, and does not ‘exclude the possibility’ of one day acceding to it.”

In the meantime, China has been an active observer-state in the body’s day-to-day affairs at The Hague.

The Guardian said Russia has formally withdrawn its signature from the founding statute of the ICC in 2016, a day after the court published a report classifying the Russian annexation of Crimea as an occupation.

The repudiation of the tribunal, though symbolic, is a fresh blow to efforts to establish a global legal order for pursuing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, The Guardian added.

The Russian foreign ministry announced Russia’s withdrawal on the orders of the president, Vladimir Putin, saying; “The tribunal had failed to live up to hopes of the international community,” and denouncing its work as “one-sided and inefficient.”

Russia signed the Rome statute in 2000 and cooperated with the court, but had not ratified the treaty. It remains outside the ICC’s jurisdiction.

In recent months, three African countries who were all full members of the ICC—South Africa, Burundi and Gambia—have signaled their intention to pull out, following complaints that ICC prosecutions focused excessively on the African continent.

India has neither signed nor ratified the Rome Statute.

Before the ICC gets out of the picture completely, Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III said he expects it to dismiss the complaint filed against Duterte.

“My fearless forecast here is that it will be dismissed. These [allegations against Duterte] are not in the same level as crimes against humanity and genocide,” he added.

Pimentel reiterated his support for the decision of Duterte to withdraw the Philippines’s ratification of the Rome Statute, saying administration foes are using it as a weapon.

Speaking over radio dwIZ, Pimentel said he now understands why African nations felt singled out by the ICC.

“This is clearly a domestic issue, a law-enforcement issue related to our antidrug laws. So what is actually happening here? We are not yet hopeless. We have the Senate, the ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan, Civil Service, the Napolcom and yet the ICC entertained the complaint,” Pimentel said.

He noted that politician-allies of a defeated presidential candidate were behind the filing of the complaint against Duterte.

Sen. Vicente C. Sotto III, in a Twitter post, said the ICC “refuses” to let the Philippines get out of the treaty because of its contribution to the high court’s operating funds.

“Our last payment to the ICC was €397,896, or P25,404,938. That’s why the ICC won’t like us to leave,” he said in his tweet.

An ICC committee report dated November 3, 2017, showed the Philippines had contributed €397,896 to the high court’s fund in 2017. The amount makes up about 0.28 percent of the €144,587,306 the ICC has collected from the contributions of its 124 state-signatories in 2017.


Recto Mercene

Recto L. Mercene, graduate BS Journalism, Lyceum of the Philippines. First prize winner, News Photojournalism, by Confederation of Asean Journalists, Bangkok, Thailand; second prize winner, Art and Photojournalism Award; San Miguel Corporation. Former Air Traffic Controller and private pilot.
Colombo scholarship grantee: Hurn College of Air Traffic Control, Bournemouth, United Kingdom.