By Martin Petty
MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said there is no chance of him going on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), because “not in a million years” would it have jurisdiction to indict him.
The fiery-tempered leader is the subject of a Philippine lawyer’s complaint to the ICC accusing him of making killing “best practice” in his ferocious 19-month-old war on drugs.
The ICC last month said it had started a preliminary examination to establish whether it had jurisdiction, and if crimes against humanity had been committed.
“You cannot acquire jurisdiction over me, not in a million years,” Duterte said in a speech late on Tuesday.
He added: “Believe it. They cannot ever, ever hope to acquire jurisdiction over my person.”
Duterte has previously called the ICC “useless” and “hypocritical”, the kind of comments that have maintained his appeal among voters drawn by his defiance and maverick style.
Though he says he would be open to any investigations by the United Nations and ICC, he last week told security forces they should not cooperate with them.
The ICC is a court of last resort and only steps in when a government is found to be unwilling or unable to do so.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque predicted that the ICC would find it had no jurisdiction in the Philippines and no crime to investigate.
“Because Philippine courts are able and willing, the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction,” Roque said in a regular news briefing.
“When it comes to merit, the war against drugs cannot be considered a crime against humanity,” he said, describing the campaign as a legitimate and with a clear purpose.
‘PROTECTING MY COUNTRY’
The government denies activists’ allegations that drug dealers and users are being systematically targeted for execution.
Police say they have killed about 4,100 drug dealers, in shootouts, but have no ties to unidentified armed men who have killed hundreds of drug users.
Duterte has also said the Philippines’ ICC membership might be invalid on a domestic level, because Manila’s 2011 accession to the ICC’s Rome Statute was not announced in the country’s official gazette.
Duterte gave a speech lasting well over an hour on Wednesday, focusing heavily on justifying his anti-narcotics campaign, blasting human rights groups and again questioning the ICC’s remit.
“I take full legal responsibility for things that are happening, intended or not intended. I’m here to protect my country,” he said, to big applause.
“I believe if I stop this crusade it would have compromised this country, and the next generation, and it would have been my failure.”
In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, rebuked Duterte on several fronts, criticizing his “vilification” of a U.N. special rapporteur, his instruction to police to not cooperate, and “deepening repression and increasing threats” to those with dissenting or independent views.
“This authoritarian approach to governance threatens to irreparably damage 30 years of commendable efforts by the Philippines to strengthen the rule of law and respect for the human rights,” he said.
(Reporting by Martin Petty and Enrico dela Cruz in MANILA and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in GENEVA; Editing by Robert Birsel)