By MB Online and Roy Mabasa
An International Criminal Court prosecutor on Monday said the Philippines will still be examined for alleged crimes against humanity despite its withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensounda said her office will continue its “independent and impartial preliminary examination into the situation in the Philippines.”
“Pursuant to article 127.2 of the Statue, and based on prior ICC judicial ruling in the situation in Burundi, the Court retains its jurisdiction over crimes committed during the time in which the State was party to the Statute and may exercise this jurisdiction even after the withdrawal becomes effective,” Bensounda said.
Bensouda was referring to the decision of the ICC in 2017, authorizing the opening of an investigation of the situation in Burundi even after it has already withdrawn its membership from the Rome Statute.
“The Pre-Trial Chamber found that the Court has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed while Burundi was a State party to the ICC Rome Statute. Burundi was a State Party from the moment the Rome Statute entered into effect for Burundi (December 1, 2004) until the end of the one-year interval since the notification of Burundi’s withdrawal (October 26, 2017),” the ICC said in its decision on the Burundi case.
Burundi became the first country to leave the ICC membership.
Philippine Society of International Law President Elizabeth Pangalangan shared the ICC view, saying that, “on matters that are already under examination while we were members, it continues.”
The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC on March 17, 2019, one year after the note verbale on the country’s withdrawal was sent to the United Nations.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier warned the ICC that continuing any investigation on the alleged abuses in President Duterte’s drug war would mean interfering with the country’s sovereignty.
“Should the ICC proceed with its undertakings relative to the Philippines and violate the provisions of the instrument which created it in the process, it can only mean that it is bent on interfering with the sovereignty of our Republic,” Panelo said.