Mr. Cruvellier, a journalist and author, has covered international criminal justice for more than 20 years.
John Bolton speaking at the Federalist Society on September 10.Al Drago for The New York Times
In 2002, John R. Bolton, then an under secretary of state, went after the International Criminal Court. The tribunal had recently been created to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes throughout the world, and apparently he felt that it threatened the United States.
The court was backed by a crowd of zealous activists who believed law should rule over politics, and its flamboyant first prosecutor seemed to think he could outsmart foxy leaders and generals. Mr. Bolton responded by coaxing or arm-twisting as many governments as he could into pledging that they wouldn’t hand Americans over to the court. (By one estimate, 95 states have made that commitment.)
Sixteen years later, Mr. Bolton, now President Trump’s national security adviser, has resumed his onslaught on the I.C.C., today 123 members strong. In a speech before the Federalist Society in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10, he flayed the court for mismanagement, corruption, inefficiency and partiality. The I.C.C., he said, is the American founders’ “worst nightmare come to life.”
He had in mind the intention of the I.C.C.’s current prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to investigate atrocities committed in Afghanistan, mostly in 2003 and 2004, during the United States-led invasion of the country.