On September 10, 2018, in a speech before the Federalist Society U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said the Trump Administration will use any means necessary to protect U.S. citizens, and those of its allies, from unjust prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Bolton said a major reason for his remarks was that on November 3, 2017, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor issued a statement concerning her request to start an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan. The Chief Prosecutor indicated the investigation would target the Afghan National Security Forces, the Taliban, and the Haqqani network, as well as war crimes allegedly committed by U.S. service members and intelligence professionals during the Afghan war since May 1, 2003.
Bolton announced that, if the ICC formally opens an investigation, the Trump Administration will consider the following steps: negotiate even more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit countries from surrendering U.S. persons to the ICC; to the extent allowed by U.S. law; ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the U.S.; sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system; consider acting in the UN Security Council to limit the ICC’s authority, including to ensure that the ICC does not exercise jurisdiction over U.S. nationals and the U.S. allies that have not ratified the Rome Statute; and take action against entities and persons who cooperate with the ICC with respect to cases against U.S. nationals.
Bolton explained the Trump Administration will protect American constitutionalism, its sovereignty, and its citizens. Bolton observed that, as Trump said in his first foreign policy speech as a Presidential candidate in April 2016, given in the same Mayflower Hotel that Bolton delivered his talk, the Trump promised “in every decision we make, we will put the interests of the American People first.”
In his remarks Bolton explained that the ICC was established in July 2002 with the entry into force of the Rome Statute. While the U.S> originally signed the Rome Statute at the very end of the Clinton Administration, it was not submitted to the Senate for ratification. In May 2002, President George W. Bush authorized the then-Under Secretary of State John Bolton to “unsign” it based on the view of the U.S. government that it was fundamentally illegitimate.
Bolton explained the U.S. government’s position to unsign the Rome treaty is based on concerns of the U.S. government that the ICCC has broad, unaccountable powers that posed a significant threat to U.S. sovereignty and its constitutional protections. Bolton said it is a fundamental principle of international law that a treaty is binding only on its parties, and that it does not establish obligations for non-parties without their consent.
The current issue of the IELR will provide a more comprehensive account of the remarks by Bolton and implications.