The US government’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has never in his career in politics been slow in coming forward to criticise the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Along with presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama — and an enduring cross-party sentiment in the Senate — he sees the court as an institution which could in certain circumstances violate the sovereignty claimed, quite properly, by the US Congress.
This explains, in part, the refusal of successive administrations to sign up to the court’s jurisdiction, even though US diplomats played a pivotal role in its conception and establishment. In recent years they have co-operated with the court in helping — while having no legal obligation to do so — to bring people accused of atrocities and war crimes to face justice in The Hague.
A notable transfer from US custody to the ICC was that of a senior commander of the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda.
But the virulence of Mr Bolton’s latest critique of the ICC is eye-watering, even by the low standards of the Trump administration. Irked by — albeit duplicitous — calls for ICC inquiries into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan and Palestinian allegations against Israel, he says the US would impose sanctions on ICC prosecutors and judges and prosecutors; they could be banned from entering the US, and assets they might have there could be frozen.
The court, he pronounced, is not only “illegitimate” but also, and bizarrely, “dead”.
His inexplicable verdict will be applauded only by totalitarian leaders and terrorist gangs who will welcome any development that aids them in dodging justice in The Hague.