The New York Times is reporting that National Security Advisor John Bolton is preparing to impose extensive sanctions on the International Criminal Court if it investigates alleged war crimes by American troops in Afghanistan. The newspaper acquired the text of a speech Bolton scheduled for Monday.
“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Bolton plans to say. “We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the U.S. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and, we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists in an ICC investigation of Americans.”
Bolton’s speech is combined with the Trump Administration’s decision to shutter the offices of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Washington, a move related to the campaign against the ICC. The Palestinian group has lodged complaints with the ICC about actions of the Israeli government, ranging from the building of settlements to the deployment of sharpshooters against protesters from Gaza.
Bolton has long been skeptical of the ICC and these actions can be seen as a ramped up return to policies pursued by the Bush administration in 2002-2003. As The New York Times notes, “The United States declined to join the court during Mr. Bush’s first term, when Mr. Bolton was an under secretary of state and later ambassador to the United Nations. After he left the Bush administration, the White House showed a little less resistance to the court’s work, even expressing support for its investigation of atrocities in Darfur.”
But while Bolton is one of the most vocal opponents of the ICC, he’s by no means alone in this attitude. The United States has never joined the ICC, even in periods where it made an effort to co-operate with the court, as in the later years of George W. Bush or under President Obama. With Trump in office, however, Bolton can now relaunch the war against the ICC that he first waged in the George W. Bush years.