With these words, Donald Trump’s national security advisor, John R. Bolton, hailed the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to abandon its inquiry into possible breaches of international human rights laws in Afghanistan, the New York Times reported on April 12, 2019.
The ICC judges in charge of the Afghanistan case considered that such an investigation would not be possible without US cooperation, but the prosecutor of the Court, Gambia’s Fatou Bensouda, has stated that she will appeal. Her request includes not only an investigation into Afghanistan but also allegations of torture in the secret prisons of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Poland, Romania and Lithuania.
Faced with US neoconservatives’ uncompromising, blanket rejection of international criminal justice, supporters of the ICC usually invoke the precedent of the Nuremberg Trials. They highlight the active role taken by the United States in the creation of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), which tried the 21 most senior leaders of the Nazi regime between November 1945 and October 1946.
However, the call for a return to American leadership of international criminal justice is based on a problematic historical narrative that doesn’t stand up to closer examination.