John Bolton, the walrus-moustached former US national security adviser, once wrote an imaginary note to my lunch guest, Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). “Dear Madame Prosecutor,” it went, according to his own account in a 2017 op-ed written after she had requested an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan, including by American personnel. “You are dead to us. Sincerely, the United States.”

Bolton may have gone but, as I set off — mask and sanitiser in hand — to meet Bensouda face-to-face in The Hague, US animosity towards her is very much alive. From its creation in 2002, the ICC has been abhorred by many in Washington who regard it as a dangerous curb on American power. In June, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing financial sanctions on Bensouda, who has, since last year, been banned from travelling to the US, except on UN business.

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