By Roy Mabasa
As Manila’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) took effect Sunday (March 17), its neighboring country Malaysia formally ascended to the Hague-based body as its 123rd member.
The Philippines’ withdrawal took effect a year after it told the United Nations that it was quitting the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal shortly after the ICC launched a preliminary probe of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war-on-drugs” campaign.
Taking a different path, Malaysia said joining the ICC “reflects its commitment to combating international crimes for global peace and security.”
The Malaysian foreign ministry said “Malaysia stands ready to work together with all state parties in upholding the principles of truth, human rights, rule of law, fairness and accountability.”
The ICC, for its part, said it was “inspired” to see Malaysia joining the ICC, adding that its accession to the Rome Statute was a “veritable act of recognition of the continuing value of the Rome Statute and the ICC.”
“It goes without saying that Malaysia’s accession to the Rome Statute is a veritable act of recognition of the continuing value of the Rome Statute and the ICC,” ICC President Chile Eboe-Osujisaid.
The ICC president further said that Malaysia has now brought in an additional force of over 30 million people who add their support to the institutionalized determination to say “never again, would atrocities that shock the conscience of humanity be committed without questions of accountability being asked.”
Aside from Malaysia, two other Southeast Asian countries are state parties to the Rome Statute – Cambodia and Bangladesh,
Prior to the Philippine notice of withdrawal last year, the ICC announced that it was determining if there was a “reasonable basis” to proceed with an investigation of Duterte’s war on drugs campaign for possible charges of crimes against humanity.
Duterte countered by saying that the decision to withdraw was because of “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” by U.N. officials and an attempt by the ICC prosecutor to seek jurisdiction “in violation of due process and presumption of innocence.”
Legal experts have expressed views that it will be difficult for the ICC to proceed with its investigation of Duterte if there will be no guarantee of cooperation from the Philippines.
Earlier, the Office of High Commissioner of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights claimed that they have received reports that the latest number of those killed in the bloody anti-drug campaign under in the Philippines has allegedly reached to about 27,000. This, however, was way beyond the official government tally of more than 5,000 drug-related deaths since June 2016.