In a shocking statement that has global repercussions, an official of the Trump Administration has threatened the International Criminal Court if prosecutors at The Hague charge the U.S. government officials with war crimes.
John Bolton, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, made the announcement in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative group, in Washington, DC, on Monday.
"I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the president. 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 said.
"We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to 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."
The court is currently considering prosecuting U.S. servicemen over alleged detainee abuse in Afghanistan. In November 2017, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called for a full investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. She said she had "a reasonable basis to believe" that such crimes had been committed. Alleged possible perpetrators included the CIA, the Taliban and Afghan forces.
The ICC investigates and brings to justice those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, intervening when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute.
Bolton added that judges and prosecutors with the International Criminal Court (ICC) would be barred from entering the U.S. and their funds in the U.S. would be sanctioned.
"We will prosecute them in the US criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans." He added that more "binding, bilateral agreements" would be signed to stop countries submitting U.S. citizens to the court's jurisdiction.
The U.S. did not ratify the Rome Statute under which the ICC was created in 2002, as President George W Bush opposed the body and hence is not bound by its rulings. But, the Rome Statute has been ratified by 123 countries, including the UK, leaving out more than 70 as non-members including India, Russia and China.