The International Criminal Court (ICC) may issue arrest warrants against heads of state and other government officials even if their countries had pulled out from the tribunal, a court official said Thursday.
In an online forum, ICC spokesperson Fadi El Abdallah explained that member-states which ratified the Rome Statute, a treaty that established the Hague-based tribunal, had agreed that heads of state are not immune from prosecution before the international court.
“Yes, it is possible because the immunity of the heads of state is not something that is opposable to the ICC,” Abdallah said in a Facebook Live video, responding to a query on arrest warrants against accused world leaders.
“When the state has ratified the Rome Statute, that means the state has accepted that even heads of state or other officials from that state are not immune from prosecution before the ICC if, of course, there is enough evidence [against] the accused person,” he added, noting that this doctrine has been accepted as part of international law.
Abdallah also said that the sovereignty of member-states cannot be used against the general principle on the immunity of heads of states.
The Rome Statute seeks to investigate and prosecute individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community.
Article 27 states that the statute “shall apply equally to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity.”
It means that all heads of state or government, members of government or parliament, elected representatives, or government officials were neither exempted from criminal responsibility nor reduction of sentence.
Last month, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber authorized the start of an investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war over alleged abuses committed from July 2016 to March 2019 — at a time when Duterte was president — as well as drug cases in November 2011 to June 2016, when he was still Davao City mayor.
Malacañang has yet to comment on the ICC’s explanation, but Duterte’s spokesmen have long said that it won’t cooperate with the court, arguing that it has no jurisdiction over the Philippines following the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute in 2019.
The Palace also said that the country does not need foreign entities in reviewing alleged human rights abuses in its anti-narcotics campaign since judicial processes are working.
The ICC, however, maintained it has jurisdiction over supposed crimes committed while the Philippines was still a state party.
Aside from the Philippines, the court is also conducting investigations in Kenya, Libya, and Palestine over alleged gravest crimes of concern, which have been classified by the ICC as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.
With reports from MJ BLANCAFLOR