The Princeton Principle

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I don't mind what he does to the Nazis, but I hate to see the pretense that he is running a court and proceeding according to common law. This is a little too sanctimonious a fraud to meet my old-fashioned ideas. Kenneth Roth , the executive director of Human Rights Watch , argues that universal jurisdiction allowed Israel to try Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in Roth also argues that clauses in treaties such as the Geneva Conventions of and the United Nations Convention Against Torture of , which requires signatory states to pass municipal laws that are based on the concept of universal jurisdiction, indicate widespread international acceptance of the concept.

Universal jurisdiction differs from a state's prosecuting crimes under its own laws, whether on its own territory territorial jurisdiction or abroad extraterritorial jurisdiction. As an example, the United States asserts jurisdiction over stateless vessels carrying illicit drugs on international waters—but here the US reaches across national borders to enforce its own law, rather than invoking universal jurisdiction and trans-national standards of right and wrong.

States attempting to police acts committed by foreign nationals on foreign territory tends to be more controversial than a state prosecuting its own citizens wherever they may be found. Bases on which a state might exercise jurisdiction in this way include the following:. Established in The Hague in , the International Criminal Court ICC is an international tribunal of general jurisdiction defined by treaty to prosecute state-members' citizens for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression, as specified by several international agreements, most prominently the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court signed in Universal jurisdiction over the crimes enumerated in the Rome Statute was rejected by the signing parties, however universal jurisdiction is what allows the United Nations Security Council to refer specific situations to the ICC.

In addition the United Nations has set up geographically specific courts to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity under a theory of universal jurisdiction, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda , and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia investigates war crimes that took place in the Balkans in the s.

Universal jurisdiction may be asserted by a particular nation as well as by an international tribunal. The result is the same: Amnesty International argues that since the end of the Second World War over fifteen states have conducted investigations, commenced prosecutions and completed trials based on universal jurisdiction for the crimes or arrested people with a view to extraditing the persons to a state seeking to prosecute them. All states parties to the Convention against Torture and the Inter-American Convention are obliged whenever a person suspected of torture is found in their territory to submit the case to their prosecuting authorities for the purposes of prosecution, or to extradite that person.

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Universal jurisdiction - Wikipedia

In addition, it is now widely recognized that states, even those that are not states parties to these treaties, may exercise universal jurisdiction over torture under customary international law. Bush on behalf of persons tortured in US detention camps, invoking the universal jurisdiction doctrine. Bush cancelled his trip to Switzerland after news of the planned prosecution came to light. Bush has traveled to Canada but the Canadian government shut down the prosecution in advance of his arrest. The court stated that immunity was not granted to state officials for their own benefit, but instead to ensure the effective performance of their functions on behalf of their respective states.

The court also stated that when abroad, state officials may enjoy immunity from arrest in another state on criminal charges, including charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity. The High Court of Australia confirmed the authority of the Australian Parliament, under the Australian Constitution, to exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes in the Polyukhovich v Commonwealth case of In , Belgium's Parliament passed a "law of universal jurisdiction" sometimes referred to as "Belgium's genocide law" , allowing it to judge people accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.


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  • In , four Rwandan citizens were convicted and given sentences from 12 to 20 years' imprisonment for their involvement in Rwandan genocide. Confronted with this sharp increase in cases, Belgium established the condition that the accused person must be Belgian or present in Belgium. The ICJ's decision issued on 14 February found that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the question of universal jurisdiction, instead deciding the question on the basis of immunity of high-ranking state officials. On 1 August , Belgium repealed the law on universal jurisdiction, and introduced a new law on extraterritorial jurisdiction similar to or more restrictive than that of most other European countries.

    However, some cases that had already started continued. Arrested in Senegal following requests from Senegalese courts, he was tried and convicted for war crimes by the Special Tribunal in Senegal in and sentenced to life in prison. Michael Byers , a University of British Columbia law professor, has argued that these laws go further than the Rome Statute, providing Canadian courts with jurisdiction over acts pre-dating the ICC and occurring in territories outside of ICC member-states; "as a result, anyone who is present in Canada and alleged to have committed genocide, torture A Finnish high court sentenced a Rwandan preacher to life in jail in for his participation in Rwanda's genocide in Francois Bazaramba, 59, moved in to Finland seeking asylum.

    Finland allows prosecutions for crimes against humanity wherever they are committed. According to Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat , the court found him guilty of orchestrating deadly attacks, and organising the torching of Tutsi homes. In a statement the court said he had spread anti-Tutsi propaganda and incited "killings through fomenting anger and contempt towards Tutsis".

    Universal jurisdiction

    It stated that "The court has found Bazaramba guilty of an offence which without a genocidal intent would be judged as a murder or incitement to murder For those crimes, the only possible punishment is life imprisonment. During the trial, the court heard from 68 witnesses, travelling to Rwanda and Tanzania to hear some testimonies. The following infractions may be prosecuted:.

    The law was passed in and up to it has been used once, in the trial of Rwandan rebel leader Ignace Murwanashyaka. In he was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The moral philosopher Peter Singer , along with Kenneth Roth, [6] has cited Israel 's prosecution of Adolf Eichmann in as an assertion of universal jurisdiction. He claims that while Israel did invoke a statute specific to Nazi crimes against Jews, its Supreme Court claimed universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity.

    Eichmann's defense lawyer argued that Israel did not have jurisdiction on account of Israel not having come into existence until The Genocide Convention also did not come into effect until , and the Genocide Convention does not automatically provide for universal jurisdiction.

    It is also argued that Israeli agents obtained Eichmann illegally, violating international law when they seized and kidnapped Eichmann, and brought him to Israel to stand trial. The Argentinian government settled the dispute diplomatically with Israel. Israel argued universal jurisdiction based on the "universal character of the crimes in question" and that the crimes committed by Eichmann were not only in violation of Israel law, but were considered "grave offenses against the law of nations itself". As a supplemental form of jurisdiction, a further argument is made on the basis of protective jurisdiction.

    Protective jurisdiction is a principle that "provides that states may exercise jurisdiction over aliens who have committed an act abroad which is deemed prejudicial to the security of the particular state concerned". The legitimacy of the tribunal and its findings have been questioned. For purposes of these Principles, universal jurisdiction is criminal jurisdiction based solely on the nature of the crime, without regard to where the crime was committed, the nationality of the alleged or convicted perpetrator, the nationality of the victim, or any other connection to the.

    Universal jurisdiction may be exercised by a competent and ordinary judicial body of any state in order to try a person duly accused of committing serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2 1 , provided the person is present before such judicial body. A state may rely on universal jurisdiction as a basis for seeking the extradition of a person accused or convicted of committing a serious crime under international law as specified in Principle 2 1 provided that it has established a prima facie case of the person's guilt and that the person sought to be extradited will be tried or the punishment carried out in accordance with international norms and standards on the protection of human rights in the context of criminal proceedings.

    In exercising universal jurisdiction or in relying upon universal jurisdiction as a basis for seeking extradition, a state and its judicial organs shall observe international due process norms including but not limited to those involving the rights of the accused and victims, the fairness of the proceedings, and the independence and impartiality of the judiciary hereinafter referred to as "international due process norms".

    A state shall exercise universal jurisdiction in good faith and in accordance with its rights and obligations under international law. For purposes of these Principles, serious crimes under international law include: The application of universal jurisdiction to the crimes listed in paragraph 1 is without prejudice to the application of universal jurisdiction to other crimes under international law. Principle 3 -- Reliance on Universal Jurisdiction in the Absence of. With respect to serious crimes under international law as specified in Principle 2 1 , national judicial organs may rely on universal jurisdiction even if their national legislation does not specifically provide for it.

    Principle 4 -- Obligation to Support Accountability. A state shall comply with all international obligations that are applicable to: A state, in the exercise of universal jurisdiction, may, for purposes of prosecution, seek judicial assistance to obtain evidence from another state, provided that the requesting state has a good faith basis and that the evidence sought will be used in accordance with international due process norms.

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    Principle 5 -- Immunities. The principles "are the most serious attempt ever made to guide national courts in meeting the challenge of crimes of state," said Richard Falk, a Woodrow Wilson School emeritus professor and renowned legal expert.

    The Princeton Principles on Universal Jurisdiction.

    Participants believe the principles can promote greater accountability for those accused of heinous crimes while reducing the risk of uneven justice. Schwebel, former president of the International Court of Justice. This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.

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