Rights lawyer warns against arrest of ICC prosecutor

By: Rosalie Abatayo April 22,2018 - 04:35 PM

CEBU CITY—President Duterte cannot just order the arrest of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) without facing repercussion.

A former commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government warned that arresting the ICC prosecutor would be another legal liability for President Duterte.

Human rights lawyer Ruben Carranza, who is now based in New York, said that one-fourth of the cases of conviction in the ICC were due to obstruction of justice.

“But it is the first case I know that the prosecutor herself is the one being threatened,” he said in a meeting with Cebu Lawyers for Human Rights on Sunday.

“[If the prosecutor comes and gets arrested,] that’s not only unlawful but that is also a violation of the treaty (Rome Statute). Other countries that are parties to the treaty will very likely not only condemn it but to come to the assistance of the ICC prosecutor who may face that predicament,” he added.

Mr. Duterte earlier announced that the country was withdrawing from the Rome Statute, a treaty adopted in 1998 that led to the creation of the ICC after the ICC started its “preliminary examination” on the President’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

Although the withdrawal would take effect a year after the country issued the notice, President Duterte said the withdrawal was effective immediately claiming that there was fraud committed in the process of making the Philippine sign the agreement.

Carranza stressed that the withdrawal would take effect only after a year based on the Rome Statute provisions.

During the period, he added, the ICC prosecutor may still open an investigation about the alleged extra-judicial killings in the Philippines until March 2019, without questions of jurisdiction.

Carranza said the ICC prosecutor may not have to physically go to the President to open an investigation.

The prosecutor, he added, could use the documentations from media coverages to establish the patterns in the killings under the drug war.

He said “high officials” who incited, commanded or requested the killing of the drug suspects were the focus of the investigations of the ICC prosecutor rather than the very persons who committed the killings.

President Duterte’s pronouncements that he would not punish policemen who killed drug suspects may be used as an indicative that he was an indirect co-perpetrator in the killings, he added.

Carranza said that while a sitting President cannot be charged under the Constitution, such a privilege is not granted in the ICC.

“It is not unprecedented that a sitting president or head of state was brought before the ICC for trial,” said Carranza.

Carranza said senators should also challenge the President’s move to pull out the country’s membership from the ICC.

Since it was the Senate that ratified the Philippines participation in the ICC, he added the Upper Chamber must also review the withdrawal.

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