Duterte ‘arrest’ possible in other ICC member states – lawyer

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 10)— Another human rights lawyer warned of a possible arrest of President Rodrigo Duterte as the International Criminal Court (ICC) wraps up its preliminary investigation into the administration’s war on drugs.

While a possible warrant cannot be enforced through a local tribunal, Free Legal Assistance Group chairman Atty. Chel Diokno said the country’s chief executive may still be taken into custody— if he decides to set foot in another ICC member state.

“Actually all states that are members of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, are obligated to cooperate whenever a warrant is issued,” Diokno told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Tuesday.

“If the President remains in the country, it will probably not be enforced. But if he travels to another country that is part of the Rome Statute, they are obligated to enforce the warrant,” he added.

The President faces a complaint before the Hague-based tribunal for crimes against humanity in connection with his flagship anti-drug campaign. Lawyer Jude Sabio filed the "communication" before the ICC in April 2017. Two months later, then opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes and then Rep. Gary Alejano also filed supplemental communication before the court.

The court's prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, last year launched a preliminary examination on the situation in the Philippines. The ICC said it aims to conclude the examination by next year— to see if there is a need for a formal investigation on the case.

‘ICC cannot arrest the President’

Malacañang previously downplayed claims that Duterte may be arrested over the communications filed before the international court.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in a radio interview last weekend, stressed a warrant cannot be enforced as the ICC has “no jurisdiction” over the country. This came in response to human rights lawyer and former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares’ remark that the chief executive may face possible arrest after the court’s preliminary examination.

Duterte in 2018 announced the country's pullout from the ICC— following supposed attacks against him and his administration as well as the international court's attempt to put him under its jurisdiction. The country's withdrawal from the ICC— which investigates cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression —became official in March.

Government data shows more than 6,000 people have been killed in anti-illegal drug operations since Duterte took office in July 2016. Human rights groups, however, have cited higher figures.