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U.S. Will Retaliate If ICC Tries To Prosecute Americans, Bolton Says


The Trump administration is putting the International Criminal Court on notice. President Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, says if the court opens an investigation into alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan as it says it will, the U.S. will sanction the judges and prosecutors. NPR's Michele Kelemen has more.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: National Security Adviser John Bolton says he was proud to lead the charge against the ICC during the George W. Bush administration, withdrawing America's signature from the statute that established the court.


JOHN BOLTON: I was privileged - I called it my happiest day in government - to unsign the Rome Statute on behalf of President Bush, and we're just picking up the pace now.

KELEMEN: Bolton has long worried that the court could unfairly target U.S. personnel serving overseas, and he negotiated agreements with about 100 countries to make sure they would never deliver Americans to the International Criminal Court. Now, as Trump's national security adviser, he's threatening sanctions if the ICC opens an investigation into Americans who served in Afghanistan. The U.S. could ban judges or prosecutors from entering the U.S. or freeze assets they may have here. Bolton won applause at The Federalist Society when he vowed to use any means necessary to protect American citizens or U.S. allies, including Israel, from the court.


BOLTON: We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.

KELEMEN: Human Rights Watch accuses Bolton of showing, quote, "a callous disregard for the victims of atrocity crimes." The ICC was established to prosecute the worst offenders and has jurisdiction only where states are unwilling or unable to prosecute those crimes. Amnesty International USA says in a statement that the U.S. is sending a dangerous signal that it is hostile to human rights and the rule of law.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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