ICC and PH: Who is weaponizing what?
The Republic of the Philippines, according to its President, is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) because, again according to the same Chief Executive, it is a European Union invention.
President Rodrigo Duterte also said the court was invented by the Europeans as a means of penance for the wrongs their peoples had inflicted on the rest of the world.
He further said, hyperbolically of course, that the court was created by no one.
He has argued that other states should therefore imitate the Philippines and pull out of the Rome Statute that governs the states parties to the court.
For context, we must remember that the Philippine mission in the Hague had been informed by the ICC that it has decided to run a preliminary probe to decide whether there are sufficient grounds to formally investigate Duterte for crimes against humanity in relation to the bloodletting amid his campaign against drugs.
In a statement, the Philippine government maintains that the move to possibly investigate the President is a sign that the concept of human rights is being politicized and weaponized.
The court has conveyed its regrets over Malacañang’s move and urged the government to reconsider its decision to withdraw, which would only take effect at the end of the yearlong notice period.
Without going into the various discussions attending these recent developments, let us examine whether the preliminary investigation is justified.
The ICC operates as a complementary justice system for states parties.
It does not seek to supplant the judiciaries of member states, but only complements them in cases where they have become so dysfunctional that justice cannot be achieved.
The tribunal will look into cases of extra-judicial killings in the campaign against illegal drugs in July 2016 so it is safe to say that one criterion for determining if a full-blown investigation of Duterte will be done is the extent to which the courts have achieved justice for any case filed against agents of the government during the said period.
If it can be shown that our courts have functioned to bring to justice any perpetrator of extrajudicial killings in July 2016, then the ICC has no reason to proceed to a formal investigation and the Philippine government’s departure from the court is a mark of attention-deficit hyperreactivity.
If, however, it will be demonstrated that no case against any suspected extrajudicial killer in the anti-narcotics crackdown will advance in court due to intimidation or another form of interference from the executive branch, then the ICC will have a reason to initiate an investigation of the President and the pullout from the court is a clear indication of panic and guilt on the part of the government.
The President’s spin about the ICC as a self-penitential instrument of formerly colonialist, imperialist European states is irrelevant to the issue.
So what if nation states decide to do something as an international community to build a better world? Well, since that is not how the President reads the ICC: So what if formerly hegemonic states decide to create a body that can potentially hold their appetites for power in check, or make up for their wrongs on the global stage?
Better a collection of states that respond to a sense of remorse than a government that does not recognize that it is suffering an autoimmune disorder, the most glaring symptom being the recent refusal of the Department of Justice to release, upon order of the Supreme Court, police records on at least 3,000 deaths in the crackdown on illegal drugs.
Better a collection of states that can weaponize and politicize human rights than a government that wields tyranny, remorselessly using real weapons against its own defenseless citizens.
Better a court that seems anonymous, one that the President calls a nobody than a government that by withdrawing from that same court pretends that it can emerge from a “nobody organization” as a somebody in international pariah form.
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