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The ICC Is Dead to John Bolton, But Not the Public

Running Numbers by Craig Kafura
Gage Skidmore
John Bolton speaking at an event in 2015.

In his first speech as National Security Advisor, Bolton threatened to sanction International Criminal Court (ICC) judges, bar them from traveling to the US, and use US courts to prosecute them.

In a speech on Monday, September 10, 2018, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced a number of hostile policies aimed at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In his first speech as National Security Advisor, made to the Federalist Society, Bolton threatened to sanction ICC judges, bar them from traveling to the US, and use US courts to prosecute them. These restrictions come as the ICC has called for investigating Americans over alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join 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."

—John Bolton

Established by the Rome Statute in 1998 and established in 2002, the ICC was opposed by then-President George W. Bush, and the US has never ratified the treaty. Bolton, famously focused on international law and strict opposition to multilateralism, has long opposed the ICC, including during his Bush administration tenure as US ambassador to the UN.

However, Bolton's opposition to the ICC has little support among the broader American public, even among his fellow Republicans. Data from the new 2018 Chicago Council Survey, fielded July 12-31, 2018, finds that three in four Americans (74%) support US participation in the agreement on the International Criminal Court. That includes majorities of Republicans (69%), Democrats (81%), and Independents (73%).

bar graph showing partisan views of the international criminal court

Nor is this public support for the ICC new. Since the ICC entered into force in 2002, Americans have favored US participation. That support has held steady for the past sixteen years, with roughly seven in ten in support and between two and three in ten opposed.

line graph showing American opinion on the international criminal court

About the Author
Assistant Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council, he coordinates work on public opinion and foreign policy and is a regular contributor to the public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers.

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