The International Criminal Court (ICC) is “already dead to us” National Security Adviser John Bolton told the Federalist Society recently. The U.S. will, he said, resist the court “by any means necessary.”
Why would the Trump Administration take such a hard line against “the world’s court of last resort”? Founded in 2002, in the wake of the Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocides and mass rapes, the international body was supposed to try evildoers who would otherwise escape justice due to broken legal systems in failed states.
Opposing the court is not a new position for the U.S. or Ambassador Bolton. The Bush Administration refused to sign the court’s implementing treaty in 2003, contending that it would lead to trials of U.S. soldiers and spies by a politically turbo-charged body located in Europe. At the time, many European leaders opposed President Bush’s war in Iraq and questioned its actions in the war on terror, including rendition and holding prisoners indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay. Ambassador Bolton was even more prescient. He warned, in 1998, when the formation of body was first being debated in Rome, that it would be ineffective, unaccountable and overly political.
Now, U.S. soldiers may face charges for activities in Afghanistan. While the U.S. is not a signatory of the treaty, Afghanistan is, and the court claims jurisdiction over any actions taken there. If the ICC begins prosecuting American “war crimes” abroad, commanders will temper their battle plans, soldiers will become gun-shy and civilians will refuse to serve. America’s sovereign right to defend itself will be weakened. Israel is also expected to be another target, as the Palestinian Authority has agreed to the court’s jurisdiction and has already requested a probe.