John Bolton: The International Criminal Court is ‘illegitimate’ and ‘already dead to us’
National Security Adviser John R. Bolton said Monday the United States has dismissed the International Criminal Court as “illegitimate” and it will sanction the organization’s judges if they pursue an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by American soldiers and intelligence officials in Afghanistan.
The announcement came from Mr. Bolton during a speech to the Federalist Society at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“We will not cooperate with the ICC,” Mr. Bolton said. “We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”
A favorite of Washington’s conservative establishment for his hawkish stance on thorny global issues, Mr. Bolton used his first major address since joining the Trump White House in April to blast what he called a “super-national independent institution” that functions with “unchecked powers” with “no checks and balances.”
Based in the Hague, Netherlands, the court was created in 2002 with the purpose of prosecuting perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. More than 120 countries are members, however, the U.S., Russia and China never signed onto the court with then-President George W. Bush opposed to its establishment.
Under the administration of President Barack Obama, Washington cooperated more with the court.
Mr. Bolton’s remarks specifically referenced a move made late last year by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to launch a probe into possible war crimes committed by the U.S. and its allies during the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan.
Ms. Bensouda submitted a formal request to start an investigation based upon a 2016 ICC report that found that U.S. armed forces and the CIA might have committed war crimes by allegedly torturing detainees.
Mr. Bolton lashed out at the ICC, warning it that Washington would “use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”
He also warned that the Trump administration could ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the U.S., sanction their funds and prosecute them in American courts.
Mr. Bolton also announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington because of its calls for an ICC inquiry into Israel.
The move follows months of ratcheting up pressure on the Palestinians to re-engage in peace talks with Israel. Pressure tactics have including the controversial move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, in addition to slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to Palestinian organizations.
In the wake of the U.S. Embassy move, Palestinian officials requested that the ICC open an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“This afternoon, we also make a new pledge to the American people,” Mr. Bolton said. “If the court comes after us, Israel or any of our other allies, we will not sit quietly.”