In a short statement released Tuesday, the ICC declared that it was "an independent and impartial judicial institution" which serves "as an instrument to ensure accountability for crimes that shock the conscience of humanity."
According to the ICC, its "jurisdiction is subject to the primary jurisdiction of states themselves to investigate and prosecute allegations of those crimes and bring justice to the affected communities. It is only when the states concerned fail to do so at all or genuinely that the ICC will exercise jurisdiction."
"The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its work undeterred, in accordance with those principles and the overarching idea of the rule of law," the statement concluded.
Later in the day, when asked to comment on Bolton's remarks, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the ICC's possible Afghanistan inquiry was a "threat to American sovereignty," and warned that "the United States would consider those options" proposed by Bolton if the tribunal proceeded with its investigation.
In a speech in Washington on Monday, Bolton said that the US would consider barring ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the US, prevent them from launching legal proceedings, sanction funds and prosecute them in US courts if the ICC sought to prosecute American citizens or citizens of allied nations, such as Israel. Commenting on an ICC inquiry into alleged Israeli war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, Bolton called Israel's actions an effort "to defend citizens from terrorist attacks," and said that the United States would "not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel's right to self-defense."
"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.
The United States never ratified the Rome Treaty which established the International Criminal Court, which began its work in July 2002. The Bush administration, for whom Bolton served as ambassador to the United Nations, opposed the court's mandate. The ICC has 123 participating members, and is the only permanent international judicial structure competent to hear cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes. In 2002, Washington adopted the American Services-Members' Protection Act, which authorized the use of any means necessary to free US personnel if they are detained by the ICC.
Russia withdrew its signature from the Rome Statute in late 2016, citing national interests and the ICC's perceived lack of objectivity.