President Rodrigo Duterte of Philiphines 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 in February 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.
“That is why I don’t respond to them. That’s the truth.”
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 UN and ICC, he told security forces they should not cooperate with them.
The ICC is a court of last resort and only steps in when a country’s 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 Philippines 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 the campaign had a legitimate, counter-narcotics purpose and was “an official exercise of the police powers of the state”.
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.