ICC prosecutor: examination of Philippines continues despite withdrawal

AMSTERDAM/MANILA (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor said on Monday her examination into possible crimes against humanity committed in the Philippines would go on, despite its withdrawal from the court.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

The Philippines’ withdrawal from the Hague court was formalized on Sunday.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement the ICC continued to have jurisdiction over possible crimes committed during the period the country was a member.

Bensouda has been examining whether thousands of extrajudicial killings allegedly committed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs are sufficient to warrant a formal investigation.

Duterte’s spokesman said the ICC had no basis to continue its preliminary examination and the government would not cooperate with it.

“They cannot enter here if that is their purpose, to investigate. You are already intruding into our sovereignty,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a regular news conference on Tuesday.

More than 5,000 suspected drug dealers have been killed in police anti-narcotics operations since Duterte took office in June 2016.

Rights groups and critics say some of the killings were summary executions. Police deny such allegations, saying they had to use deadly force because the suspects were armed and resisted arrest.

The Philippines unilaterally withdrew from the ICC in March 2018 over what Duterte called “outrageous” attacks and violations of due process by it.

“We have already pointed out that in this country we have a judicial system that is robust and functional and very effective,” Panelo said.

The ICC procedure was “political persecution” of Duterte, he said.

Reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, Robert Birsel