Sixth Committee Delegates Discuss Ways to Further Review Complex, Controversial Issues of Applying Universal Legal Jurisdiction

13 October 2010
GA/L/3392

Sixth Committee Delegates Discuss Ways to Further Review Complex, Controversial Issues of Applying Universal Legal Jurisdiction

13 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/L/3392
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Sixth Committee

10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)

Sixth Committee Delegates Discuss Ways to Further Review Complex,

 

Controversial Issues of Applying Universal Legal Jurisdiction

 

Some Say Principle Subject to Abuse, Violating Existing Law

When the Sixth Committee (Legal) began debate today on the subject of the scope and application of universal jurisdiction (of law), delegates reviewed ways of furthering discussion on complex and controversial aspects of the question.

Universal jurisdiction, the delegate of Norway noted, entailed the institution of criminal proceedings by a State against a non-national for a crime committed extraterritorially against a non-national even if the crime did not affect the state directly.  It was applied in the case of crimes considered so serious they were of global concern and only when no other state would exercise jurisdiction over the crime.  The principle had contributed to the great achievement of the past decades in gaining universal agreement that impunity would not be tolerated.  Discussion should recognize the principle as a valuable tool in fighting impunity.  It should be approached from the angle of trying to find commonalities in procedural elements, rather than looking for ways to eliminate misuse of the principle.

Agreeing that universal jurisdiction was a complex issue on which there was a wide range of views, China’s representative said clarification of such questions would allow for healthy development of international legal order and relations.  However, abuse of the principle could constitute a violation of international law, infringe upon State sovereignty and jeopardize the stability of international relations.  Pending agreement on issues such as scope and application, States should refrain from exercising jurisdiction over other States.

Finland’s delegate took the view that said the debate on universal jurisdiction was closely related to the rule of law.  Both enforced the concept that every individual was accountable to laws that were publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated and consistent with international norms and standards.  They reaffirmed the common principle that “no one is above the law”, particularly with regard to crimes and atrocities that shocked the conscience of humanity.  To counter impunity on such a scale, action had to be taken at both national and international levels.

The delegate of Ethiopia said he shared the concern of fellow African Union members over “abuse” of the basic principle of immunity for high State officials, through the issuance of warrants against sitting African Heads of State.  He said there was an increase in the unregulated and arbitrary exercise of the principle of universal jurisdiction.  The scope and application should be limited until there was agreement on a standard since the application of the principle beyond the norms of international law was a danger to international legality.

To facilitate discussion of the emerging concepts involved in the consideration of the matter, Algeria’s representative called for restoring the purely legal aspect of the principle.  A number of delegations, including that of the Russian Federation, called for the Sixth Committee to use the resource of related work carried out by the International Law Commission on immunity and the obligation to prosecute or extradite.   Guatemala’s representative called for a working group to study sources, crimes and criteria.

Additional speakers on universal jurisdiction were the representative of Iran for the Non-Aligned Movement; Chile for the Rio Group; Malawi for the African Group; and Canada (also for Australia and New Zealand).

Also speaking were the representatives of Egypt, Belarus, Peru, Libya, Rwanda, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Czech Republic, Senegal, Spain, Slovenia, Argentina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, United States, Belgium, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, Lebanon, Netherlands, Ghana, Tunisia, El Salvador, Germany and South Africa.

Earlier the Committee concluded its discussion on the rule of law, centred on the need to stem abuse of international norms.  Iran’s representative said the “tool of law” was not immune to misuse and abuse.  Adopting national legislation that contravened established norms, or applying domestic legislation in a unilateral or extraterritorial application against other countries, adversely affected the rule of law.  Selectivity and the application of double standards in the enforcement of international treaties also undermined the concept of the rule of law. 

Others speaking today on the rule of law were the representatives of Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, India, Sudan, Azerbaijan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Eritrea, and Nigeria.

The Permanent Observers of the Holy See, the International Red Cross Committee and the International Development Law Organization also spoke. 

The Committee will meet again at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, 15 October, when the discussion on universal jurisdiction is expected to be concluded and two new items taken up, one on the status of protocols to the 1949 Geneva Convention on protection of victims of armed conflicts, and the other on measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of missions and representatives.

Background

The Sixth Committee (Legal) met today to conclude its current consideration of the rule of law at the national and international levels, and also to take up the question of the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3390 of 12 October.)

Statements on Rule of Law

RETA ALEMU NEGA ( Ethiopia) said the rule of law required the existence of an appropriate legislative framework and a predictable, fair and effective enforcement by independent judiciaries.  In Ethiopia, the federal and regional legislative, judicial and executive organs were required to implement and enforce the Constitution, along with any international agreements that were incorporated into domestic law.  Thus, once its Parliament ratified an international agreement, it became part of national law.

Furthermore, Ethiopia’s rule of law framework at the national level enabled its citizens to access the justice system, and those who violated the law, including the Government itself, would be held liable.  In his country’s endeavours to guarantee the full exercise of civil rights, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the office of Ombudsman were working to receive and respond to citizens’ complaints.  It was this system, he said, in which the Government held itself accountable by complying with international obligations to implement international human rights at a national level.  Furthermore, the Government had established the Anti-Corruption Commission, empowered to investigate and prosecute corruption and breaches of ethics in public offices.  He noted the significant activities of the United Nations in strengthening the rule of law and called for an increase of assistance to developing countries involved in such endeavours.

CLAUDIA LOZA (Nicaragua), noting that her region had “suffered recent violations on human rights”, condemned the attacks on the President of Ecuador, which were a violation of the will of the Ecuadorian people.  This was therefore an excellent opportunity to discuss the rule of law and to state the collective will of the Latin American and Caribbean people who condemned such acts, and regimes that did not promote the rule of law.  Nicaragua supported the principles of the rule of law and the efforts to seek peaceful settlements to disputes, she said.  Nicaragua would continue to seek to promote the rule of law on all levels through its commitment to the subregional, regional and international instruments it was party to, and she pointed out that in times of attacks, Nicaragua had always utilized the Courts.   However, she did not support the selective use of international laws and the threat to use force.  She emphasized that the aim of the General Assembly and this Committee was to condemn such acts and attacks.

In implementing the rule of law, she said, there was not just one model for democracy that could be applied in one way.  In assisting States to implement the rule of law, the diversity of each country’s realities needed to be considered.  Thus, in strengthening national capacity, such support needed to take into account the nature of each country.  Stating her support for the United Nations Rule Of Law Unit, she spoke of the role that media played in the rule of law, stressing that it should not be used to promote campaigns of misinformation, which gave rise to anti-democratic acts.

PATRICIO TROYA ( Ecuador) said a set of core values was shared by all States to keep societies from falling into anarchy.  The rule of law was the bedrock of those shared values.  The support offered by the world community in response to the attempted coup in his country was an affirmation of the solidarity behind the rule of law.  All States must remain vigilant and must take actions to demonstrate an appreciation of the legal heritage developed over the course of centuries.  Actions toward that end included a free and open dialogue between States on a level of equality to clarify, to better understand and to have a mutually shared view of international norms and their application in national legislation.  As the Secretary-General had recommended, a high level conference should be held.

K.C. VENUGOPAL ( India) said that at a national level, the rule of law was an essential tool for the protection of democracy and the promotion of sustainable economic growth and development, as well as the eradication of poverty and hunger.  On an international level, the rule of law was essential to ensuring harmony, peaceful co-existence and the strengthening of international peace and security.  His country’s constitution enshrined various rule of law principles, including the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial Government branches, accountability, equality before the law and the promotion and protection of individual rights.  India also “rigorously” implemented into national law the obligations of the international treaties to which it was a party.

At present, he continued, judicial reforms were being undertaken which would further supplement rule of law efforts; the reforms focused on strengthening a transparent, accountable, responsive, effective and efficient judiciary.  At the executive level, many landmark social development programmes aimed at poverty elevation and inclusive growth had been initiated.  There was also legislation, to protect the disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of society.  In ensuring adherence to the rule of law within the United Nations system, he added, it was necessary that the mandate of one organ not infringe upon another organ of the Organization.  He called for support for rule of law capacity-building for developing States.  Such support was at times “piecemeal”, he said, and in some instances, donor-driven and not in line with the national priorities of the recipient countries.  Approaches that were “national-driven” and sustainable, garnered the required political and popular support.

AMANUEL AJAWIN ( Sudan) said the 2005 Sudan National Interim Constitution had enshrined the basic principles stated in the rule of law.  The first article set out the characteristics of a complex society committed to the respect and promotion of human dignity founded on justice, equality and the advancement of rights and freedoms.  A bill of rights was also enshrined in that Constitution for the first time.

He reaffirmed the principle of non-interference as contained in the United Nations Charter and said the issuance of an arrest warrant against the President of his country was not in conformity with the norms of customary international law; rather, it was politicizing by the International Criminal Court.  The legal concept of the personal immunity of a Head of State was well enshrined in international law and had been upheld by rulings regarding the Republic of the Congo versus Belgium in 2000, and in 2004 with regard to Robert Mugabe (of Zimbabwe).  The action set a very bad precedent against other Heads of State and could be viewed as the “opening of a floodgate” against developing countries.  Reform of the principal organs of the United Nations was of critical importance for being able to face existing, new and emerging threats and challenges.

SAMIR SHARIFOV ( Azerbaijan) said he welcomed the work the Rule of Law Unit and supported the convening of a high-level meeting to address the issues concerning the rule of law.  His country implemented all international conventions that it was party to in its national legislation, and when there was a conflict, the provisions of the international agreement prevailed.  He stressed that the promotion of the rule of law was a priority, and integral to regional and international relations.  Adherence was fundamental to maintaining and supporting peace, security and development.  To this end, the United Nations must work for the universal application of the rule of law principles.

He said violations of international law and the 2005 World Summit reaffirmed that an effective multilateral system was necessary to challenge such complex challenges on a global level.  There was still a need to focus on national sovereignty, especially during times of conflict where the most vulnerable of citizens, specifically women and children, were greatly impacted.  The threat to the territorial integrity contradicted the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations; armed conflict and foreign occupation, among others, were examples of non-compliance with the Charter.  Only through multilateral cooperation would the principles of the Charter be effective, and only through universal application would the goals of the rule of law be achieved.

EDEN CHARLES ( Trinidad and Tobago) commended the work of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, and called for “adequate resources” in order for it to fulfil its mandate.  He said many States depended on United Nations assistance in implementing the rule of law in their domestic framework, in areas ranging from the drafting of legislation to the training of officials in international law.  He cited the work of the treaty section of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, as well as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in these endeavours.  Without agreement on rules governing international conduct, he continued, “small and vulnerable States would not enjoy sovereign equality with large and more powerful States”.

He said the promotion of justice on both national and international levels complemented efforts on the rule of law, and the International Criminal Court remained a “beacon” in ending impunity.  However, the main responsibility for promoting global adherence to the rule of law rested with Member States.  At a national level, Trinidad and Tobago had incorporated into its national legislation many of its obligations in the international conventions to which it was party.  These included laws that addressed the conduct of parliamentary elections, financial and economic activities, human rights and the protection of intellectual property.

ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran), said the Secretary-General’s report contained important information, but also ambiguities.  It was the sovereign right of nations to establish their own models of the rule of law and the administration of justice based on traditions, needs and other circumstances.  The international community could contribute to that right by providing technical assistance.

He said his country’s constitution sanctioned the equal rights of all people.  The Parliament decided on ratification or accession to international treaties by enacting legislation, and the Council of the Guardians of the Constitution sanctioned the decision before the legislation was sent to the executive power for enforcement or implementation.

He said what he called the “tool of law” was not immune to misuse and abuse.  Adopting national legislation that contravened established norms, or applying domestic legislation in a unilateral or extraterritorial application against other countries, adversely affected the rule of law.  International law must be respected by all.  Selectivity and the application of double standards in the enforcement of international treaties also undermined the concept of the rule of law by their very nature.  The United Nations should promote the rule of law within the Organization.

ADEL BEN LAGHA ( Tunisia) said his country’s Constitution explicitly stated that the legal instrument was founded on the rule of law.  Tunisia had also signed a great many United Nations instruments, including those on human rights and those related to terrorism.  Those instruments became part of the national legal regime once they entered into force and judges referred to them directly in making their rulings.

He said there was no point in trying to separate the rule of law into national and international elements because they were one and the same.  Lack of implementation was due to lack of political will.  The rules and norms of the United Nations went beyond those of national norms as, for example, in dealing with development at the global level.  Strengthening the rule of law entailed respect for decisions of the Security Council.  A high level meeting should be held to consider the issue.

ELSA HAILE ( Eritrea) said adherence to the rule of law was a precondition for lasting international peace and security.  However, it was imperative that all Member States, as well as regional and subregional organizations, join efforts in order to strengthen the rule of law in all its dimensions.  This would prevent the “arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of government power” in international relations among States, and she said the General Assembly needed to play a leading role on the issue. 

She also stressed that the international community must not replace a national authority, nor should the rule of law be undermined by selective or arbitrary actions.  Rather, the United Nations needed to ensure that all Member States be subject to the same standard.  Her country placed great importance on the promotion of peaceful settlement of disputes, which was at the core of the United Nations Charter, and she emphasized that the promotion of the rule of law benefited economic and social development as well as government accountability at both the national and international levels. 

AYO OLUKANNI ( Nigeria) said the efforts and successes of the rule of law at a national and international level were important to Africa as a whole, in particular in his country as a core factor in developing its democratic frameworkSuch enhancement, he said, could not be achieved in only one part of the system and not another.  A bill on criminal procedure aimed at harmonization also impacted the humane treatment of prisoners.  Thus, more efforts were being made to make prisons more collective rather than punitive.  Continuing, he said that the section focusing on the strengthening of the Constitution also supported the rule of law both nationally and internationally and to this end, Nigeria had begun major initiatives supported by reforms of the elective procedures in progress.

He said all bodies of laws and international instruments now spanned from the ocean to outer space, and ranged from human rights to the environment and the ridding of weapons of mass destruction.  Nigeria was an active member of the United Nations and involved with peacekeeping missions; if peacekeeping missions were to keep their objective, it was necessary that there be an effective regime on the international level.  The coordination and coherence of the rule of law were long time endeavours and he underscored the need for cooperation on all levels, stating that national parliaments were a reflection of the incorporation of the rule of law. 

Concluding, he heralded the safe rescue of the Chilean miners and said that the rescue efforts were a reflection of how “humanity is connected together” and an example of international cooperation. “We have a lot of lessons to learn from those miners,” he said.

FRANCIS CHULLIKATT, Observer, the Holy See, said the rule of law was the bedrock for development, peace and security as humankind was capable of knowing the “essential dignity of every human being”.  However, for the rule of law to achieve its goals, a better understanding of the nature of law and justice was needed by national and international leaders.  Law could not just be the outcome of civil legal deliberations, but also the incorporation of the natural moral law, which was “nothing but the recognition of all the social consequences of human dignity”.  He observed that this natural moral law was often not taken into account in legislative and judicial bodies.  The rule of law, therefore, risked being undermined because of this disconnect from the roots of the natural moral order and could lead to the “flawed conclusion that what has become legal is therefore just and moral”. 

He urged the international community to continue its efforts in reforming the mandate and rules of the multilateral financial bodies, with such reorganization ensuring fair participation of all countries in global financial governance.  International leaders and civil authorities should continue to work toward removing the “perceived conflict between peace and justice” and foster a broader vision of justice that took into account political, social, economic and legal forms for justice, which required the institution of right relationships among individuals and peoples.

ROBERT M. YOUNG, Observer, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), welcomed the increased attention to international criminal law and the accountability of perpetrators; the work of the ICRC in areas of armed conflict made the organization “acutely aware” of the need for States to have an effective national rule of law.  Within its advisory service, the ICRC provided States direct technical assistance in drafting domestic legislation and organized regional and international meetings where States could exchange their latest developments in international humanitarian law with one another.  Other tools made available through its efforts included a database of national legislation, providing texts from national laws from over 150 countries on topics such as war crimes and weapons.

This year the ICRC launched two publications supporting the strengthening of the rule of law at the national level, and it would be hosting in Geneva the third Universal Meeting of National Committees on International Humanitarian Law, where officials from more than 100 States would be discussing the importance of domestic law in preventing and responding to serious violations of international humanitarian law.

PATRIZIO CIVILI, Observer for the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) said his group was the only intergovernmental organization with observer status in the work of the Assembly to be entirely devoted to advancing the rule of law and its contribution to development.  Interaction with the Committee had helped his organization design a new strategic and management plan based on a view of “societal demand being the driver of legal change”.  Among the work that had emerged were studies about the building of state institutions in post-conflict and post-crisis settings and about legal empowerment.  At the regional level, the priority was to translate into action an agreement recently concluded with the African Union to address the high expectations placed on the Union as a catalyst and agent of progress on the continent.

He said he shared the view with the Secretary-General that an incremental approach to policy and institutional development was most effective in implementation of international standards.  Capacity-building and the development of local and regional practices was critical, as was the formalization of customary practice where applicable.  Tools for measuring the effectiveness of technical assistance should be further, however difficult.  Informal justice systems could play an important role in improving the rule of law internationally.  Overall, United Nations actions in support of rule of law sent political and substantive messages that were definite steps forward in refining the rule of law tools. 

Statements on Universal Jurisdiction

When the Committee turned to its agenda item on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), said the sovereignty of States was the most fundamental principle of international law.  The exercise of universal jurisdiction over high-ranking officials having immunity was a violation of that right.  Further, the principle was a tool to prosecute the perpetrators of serious crimes, but there were controversies surrounding it, including the crimes falling under that jurisdiction and the conditions for its application.

He said the application of the principle to State officials was “alarming” and generated concerns about the legal and political applications of the principle.  The African Union in July had reaffirmed its commitment to fighting impunity while calling for the immediate termination of pending indictments initiated on the basis of a blatant abuse of universal jurisdiction.  Decisions and judgments of the International Court of Justice and the work of the International Law Commission could serve as the basis for discussion.  Finally, there should be no unwarranted expansion of the crimes falling under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

ALEJANDRA QUEZADA (Chile), speaking for the Rio Group of countries, said the issue of the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction was of great concern to all Member States, and the Committee offered the consideration of the issue from a strictly legal point of view.  Such a debate, she said, should be based exclusively on the parameters and foundations provided by international law.  The principle of universal jurisdiction was defined as an “institution of international law” in the exercise of criminal jurisdiction, and because it was a juridical institution it thus defined the implementation framework exercised by States.  However, she added that it should not be confused with “international criminal jurisdiction”, which was exercised by international criminal tribunals.

Turning to the report of the Secretary-General, she said it was clear that exploration of this topic was at the preliminary stage, and would require dialogue and the study of applicable international legal norms, as well as further clarity from the General Assembly Members as to what should be considered.  She suggested the establishment of a working group to begin such exploration, but only if it did not duplicate efforts already engaged in by other bodies, such as the International Law Commission. 

MABVUTO KATEMULA ( Malawi), for the African Group, said that some non-African courts had attempted to justify their arbitrary or unilateral application of the principle of universal jurisdiction - or their interpretation of it - on the basis of customary international law.  Those States should recall that it was recognized in all the principal legal systems in the world that a State relying on a purported international custom must demonstrate that the alleged custom had become so established as to be legally binding on the other party.  That was not the case with the principle of universal jurisdiction, since there was no universally acceptable definition of it.

He said the call for a clarification of the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction - as a way to check abuse of the principle -should not be construed to mean that African States were not committed to fighting impunity.  It was not only African countries that had expressed concerns about the principle, and far from undermining the mechanisms that strengthened international criminal justice, African States made significant contributions to advancing the legal regime for international criminal law.  For example, 47 of the 53 States of the African Union had attended the Rome Conference that led to the creation of the International Criminal Court and one third of African States had ratified the Rome Statute.

What African countries and other like-minded States demanded was that the international community adopt measures to put an end to the abuse of the principle, he said.  In the absence of a clear definition and scope of application, the integrity of international law would suffer if States or tribunals arrogated onto themselves the power to make international law to suit parochial national interests.

KEITH MORRILL ( Canada), speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, noted the there was still disagreement in the international community over the scope and application of the concept of universal jurisdiction.  Because it addressed serious crimes of international concern, he urged the international community to ensure that these crimes be suppressed and that perpetrators not “enjoy impunity”.   However, he added, the heart of the debate was not over the meaning of universal jurisdiction, but the competing jurisdictions that it created; in an ideal situation, investigation and prosecution would take place in a State with a “strong nexus to the relevant conduct, such as where the crimes occurred”.  The territorial States were best placed in gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, enforcing sentences and ensuring that justice was dispensed.  All States should ensure that jurisdiction over, and prosecution of, the most serious crimes be included in their domestic laws when such crimes were committed on their territory or by their nationals. 

He said that States should further support one another by providing practical assistance to promoting the rule of law and developing domestic criminal justice systems.  In some circumstances, perpetrators were going unpunished, because of lack of the resources needed for complex and often “controversial” investigations, sometimes involving cross-border movement.  In these situations, the principle of universal jurisdiction could be engaged as a measure to fill a jurisdictional gap.

Universal jurisdiction, he went on, did not by itself mean that a State would have the means to prosecute alleged perpetrators, since there were “formidable practical problems” when trying such cases in a foreign State.  He said finally that universal jurisdiction should not be confused with the equally important but separate issue of immunity from prosecution; any discussion on universal jurisdiction should not be taken over by a discussion of immunity. 

HATEM TAG-ELDIN ( Egypt) said the primary responsibility in universal jurisdiction rested within the State where the crime had been committed.  However, because the accused may have fled to another country, such prosecution could be hampered and in those situations universal jurisdiction could assist in covering jurisdictional gaps.  There were questions and concerns regarding the actual application of the principle, including the range of crimes to which it applied and the conditions of such application.  The proper implementation of the principle therefore, needed to serve as a deterrent for crimes against humanity, war crimes and others derived from international conventions.

He also urged that selectivity abuse and double standards be avoided; it was essential that “the goal of ending impunity does not in itself generate abuse or bring about conflict with other existing rules of international law”.  To this end, he supported the resolutions adopted by the African Union Summits which expressed concern over the abuse of the principle which seemed to concentrate mostly on African leaders and officials, and which raised legal and political implications regarding the violation of the principle of immunity of State Officials before the courts of other States.

ANA CRISTINA RODRÍGUEZ-PINEDA ( Guatemala) called for determining the crimes that would be covered by universal jurisdiction.  There should not be an exhaustive listing but a clarification of how the principle of universal jurisdiction differed from international jurisdiction, and how the principle was related to the obligation to prosecute or extradition, keeping in mind that extradition was not a punishment but a process.

She said the confusion that had entered into the operation of the International Criminal Court was of concern.  The Committee should therefore examine the principle from the perspective of “not just what universal jurisdiction is, but what it is not”.  Treaty law as well as customary universal law should be taken into consideration with the ultimate aim of countering impunity by all States everywhere.  “Prevent abuse and impunity” should be the motto, she said.  The United Nations approach should be to identify elements within the principle.  A report should be prepared and a working group established to study sources, crimes and criteria.

YURI NIKOLAICHIK ( Belarus) said national treaties and other instruments demonstrated the importance of the principle involved in universal jurisdiction.  His country’s constitution did not explicitly address that principle, which had to do with the most serious crimes of a universal nature.  A State involved in the exercise of the principle did not need to have a direct involvement in the situation in question, but it had to be so threatened by the crime that the principle was invoked.  In addition to piracy, a list of crimes to be covered by the principle should be formulated and should include crimes against peace.

In Belarus, he said, the laws that served as the basis for criminal prosecutions applied beyond the country’s borders when a grave crime had been committed, such as the use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction.  Treaties were the basis for relations between States, plus the universal principles such as non-interference in the internal affairs of States.  The goal was to balance vigilance against grave crimes with prevention of abuse, including that of applying a double standard.  The informational exchange between the Sixth Committee and the International Law Commission should be intensified for a discussion of the principle.

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ ( Peru) noted that the Secretary-General’s report contained a significant number of States responding to the Secretary-General’s request on the principle.  This, he said, reflected the global interest on the question.  The criteria by which States may punish certain crimes defined by international law must conform to international law and international human rights.  In this complementary role to other criteria on jurisdiction, universal jurisdiction would thus combat impunity.  It must not be confused with international criminal jurisdiction which was exercised by international criminal tribunals.

The report also showed different points of view in several areas, including, among others, crimes over which universal jurisdiction should be exercised, from what source of international law such efforts be made, which treaty should be applied and how States could coordinate such jurisdiction.  He said he believed the principle should focus on criminal accountability of the individual.  At the current stage a working group should identify the main elements of convergence, as well as other elements needing further study.

When the Committee met again this afternoon, SAMIR GOUIDER ( Libya) said unilateral decisions should not be made under the principle of universal jurisdiction.  That principle was the “fundamental raison d’etre” for the most serious of crimes.  The principles of sovereignty of State, territorial unity and the need to ensure mutual respect, among others, were also there in order to secure political stability.  However, he asserted that some States had distanced themselves from that posture.  The African Union had studied this particular area of law and called for a final regulation on the principle, so as to put an end to practices which, under the pretence of combating impunity, sought to impose on African States.

He urged that the African concerns be taken into account, and that related political and technical questions be addressed before being taken up before the General Assembly.  The question of how universal jurisdiction should be pursued, interpreted and applied within the international legal context had been examined by various experts who studied the opinions of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, as well as General Assembly resolutions and the work of the International Law Commission.  He hoped for substantive progress so that a solution and consensus of this principle could be established.

OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) recalled that his country was affected by the abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction, as judges from certain countries arrogated the right to launch international arrest warrants against the country’s leadership on a purely political basis.  The “so-called witnesses” in those legal proceedings were prominent opponents to the Government, many of whom were “genocide fugitives”.

Although the country recognized the merits of the principle to develop international law, promote human rights and eradicate impunity, problems arose when individual judges issued international arrest warrants aimed at a nation’s leadership for political gains.  In that context, Rwanda proposed the following measures:  a moratorium on warrants already issued until discussions at the international level are concluded, and the establishment of a review mechanism for decisions taken by individual judges in applying universal jurisdiction.  A “tremendous opportunity” existed to initiate reform advancing the fight against impunity, while ensuring that individual judges did not undermine harmonious relations between nations.

ÅSMUND ERIKSEN ( Norway) recalled that the concept of universal jurisdiction entailed the institution by a State of criminal proceedings against a non-national for a crime committed extraterritorially against a non-national, and without direct impact on the State bringing about the proceedings.  The traditional justification for the exercise rested on the basis that the crime was of such a serious nature that it was of global concern and therefore could be considered as directed against all States.  The principle was often perceived as a secondary type of jurisdiction since it was applied when no other State would exercise jurisdiction over the crime.

He said a major achievement in international relations and law over the last decades was the shared understanding that there should be no impunity for serious crimes and no safe haven for those who committed such crimes.  One tool in that achievement was the exercise of the principle of universal jurisdiction by States.  That important contribution to the fight against impunity should be recognized in the discussion of the issue.

Rather than embarking on the complex task of clarifying the scope and application of the principle by looking for ways to eliminate misuse, he said, the Committee could look for common procedural or organizational recommendations.  The Secretary-General’s report contained useful information about how States organized their prosecuting authority and that exercise could be expanded.  Finally, the question of immunity should not be considered in the context of universal jurisdiction since a court could consider a case on its merits only after the court had established jurisdiction, which made a discussion of immunity qualitatively different from one on universal jurisdiction.  Also, the question of immunity arose in relation to all jurisdictions, not just universal.  And finally, immunity was being considered by the International Law Commission.

MATTANEE KAEWPANYA ( Thailand) noted that the concept of universal jurisdiction fell within the general framework of international law on the exercise of State jurisdiction.  The rationale that certain crimes were so serious that they affected the international community as a whole was quite clear, she said.  However, its scope and application remained a matter of debate for States and international legal jurists.  With respect to Thailand’s legislation and practices, its anti-piracy act provided for universal jurisdiction over acts of piracy.

She said universal jurisdiction was a complex topic.  It should not be confused with “extradite or prosecute”.  It was a basis for jurisdiction only, and did not create an obligation on States to carry out prosecution or extradition of alleged perpetrators of certain crimes.  Distinction should also be made between universal jurisdiction exercised by national courts and the international criminal jurisdiction of international tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court.  With the exception of piracy, she went on, there was no general consensus among States on the exact content of the nature of crimes that fell within the category. Thailand shared the laudable goal of ensuring that perpetrators of certain crimes not enjoy impunity, but, the international community must ensure that the application of the principles of universal jurisdiction was done in good faith and on a sound legal basis.

CHULL-JOO PARK ( Republic of Korea) said that from his country’s perspective, the principle of universal jurisdiction meant that, on behalf of the entire international community, a State could wield its power to punish certain crimes, which by themselves fell outside its territory, nationality or special State interest.  This positive role of the principle was an effective mechanism in the fight against impunity and sent a clear message that serious crimes would not be tolerated, and the Republic of Korea would, when appropriate, exercise universal jurisdiction.

The principle of aut dedere aut judicare (the obligation to extradite or prosecute) was not, in his view, equivalent to, nor synonymous with, universal jurisdiction.  However, by being a signatory to treaties incorporating that obligation, a State would exercise such jurisdiction even if it was unconnected to the crime itself.  Those two principles were inextricably linked.  Universal jurisdiction should be applied in a responsible and judicious manner and not be misused for political ends.  In order to investigate this issue further, he urged the International Law Commission, especially in light of its work on the obligation to extradite or prosecute, to investigate the matter further.

PETR VÁLEK ( Czech Republic) stated his country’s position on the issue at hand was based on its “firm belief that the principle of universal jurisdiction is directly connected to the problem of impunity of perpetrators of crimes under international law”.  Not withstanding the central role of the international criminal tribunals to combat such impunity, the principle of universal jurisdiction served as an important tool in preventing it when no other basis for jurisdiction existed.  In that context, he stated that the Czech Republic would not support any hasty efforts that would restrict the principle.

In view of the nation’s “sad experience” with Nazi and later Communist injustice, he continued, it was committed to the idea that both domestic and international courts should be fully independent and impartial; prosecutors should be free of any political influence and not take or drop cases upon requests from Government.

Mr. NDIAYE ( Senegal) said there was a common understanding to clearly define the scope and limits of universal jurisdiction; this was necessary more than ever before.  Such an investigation would not seek to deny universal jurisdiction but to ensure that the “authors of serious crimes not enjoy impunity but brought to justice”.  What was at stake was the credibility and viability established through strict compliance with other international rules and laws.

The principle did not apply to all international crimes, and it was necessary to abide by international law, especially in cases involving the immunity of State officials.  He noted that politicization had led to selectivity in the application of universal jurisdiction, and that this undermined the doctrine and imperilled international relationships.  There was, therefore, a need for the principle to be regulated in order to prevent abuse.

JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said he welcomed a clear distinction between universal jurisdiction (including extraterritorial cases) and the international jurisdiction (with trial by tribunals), as well as the principle of the obligation to prosecute or extradite.  He observed that the range of responses from States from all regions of the world refuted that the principle of universal jurisdiction was “just a European concept”.

On a national level, he said, recent amendments allowed Spanish judges to try serious crimes regardless where they were committed, but only as a last resort, and if a tribunal or State had not begun prosecution proceedings against the accused.  Furthermore, the criminal had to be in Spain or the victims had to be citizens of Spain.  The competency of judges, based on relevant treaties, would ensure maximum effectiveness in the fight against impunity of serious crimes.

As for the proposal for a working group on the matter, he said that it was his preference that the matter be referred to the International Law Commission.  The Commission would frame it in a technical environment, thus reducing the political elements in the debate.  As the Commission was also considering the principle of aut dedere aut judicare and issues of immunity of State officials, there would be areas of convergence between these issues and the Commission’s work.

SANJA ŠTIGLIC ( Slovenia) said that the purpose of universal jurisdiction was noble - to ensure that gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law that shocked the human conscience did not go unpunished even if the perpetrators removed themselves from the jurisdiction of the State where the crimes had been committed.  It sent a message to potential perpetrators that there was no impunity.  Universal jurisdiction was based on the nature of the crime; certain international crimes were so harmful and serious that they affected the entire international community.  Universal jurisdiction was attached to these crimes, because they were universally condemned and all States had a shared interest in prosecuting their perpetrators.

Although States had been accused of abusing universal jurisdiction, the Secretary-General’s report clearly showed that national legislations had built-in safeguards to avoid its indiscriminate or politicized use.  States based prosecution on conditional universal jurisdiction for relevant crimes.  It was an instrument of last resort; there were other jurisdictional bases that had priority - like territoriality and nationality with active and passive personality principles - for the State which was prosecuting on the basis of universal jurisdiction.  The venture was expensive, time-consuming and greatly dependent on cooperation with the State of territoriality, as most of evidence material was in that State.

GUO XIAMOEI (China) said the Secretary-General’s report showed there were still great difference among members of the international community regarding the definition, scope and application of universal jurisdiction.  It was a complex issue, and therefore clarification of such questions would allow for healthy development of international legal order and relations, she said.

Under contemporary international law, she added, piracy was the only crime in which universal jurisdiction could be invoked.  In addition, the “extradite or prosecute” clause in some international treaties did not fall under the definition of universal jurisdiction; it was applicable only to States party to that treaty.  China also believed that a State must respect another State’s immunities under international law, including immunity of the Head of State, government officials and State property.  Abusing the “so-called” universal jurisdiction, she said, could constitute a violation of international law, infringe upon the sovereignty and dignity of States and jeopardize the stability of international relations and normal exchanges among States.  Pending an agreement, she said each State should refrain from exercising jurisdiction over another State.

FARID DAHMENE ( Algeria) said the Secretary-General’s report was an excellent overview of State practice in areas relating to the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction.  The types of crimes should be specified and the norms of international law that would conflict with the principle should be given consideration.  Ways to prevent abuse and measures to restore the purely legal aspect of the issue should be explored.

FERNANDA MILLICAY ( Argentina) said prevailing international norms showed a distinction between universal jurisdiction and other forms of criminal jurisdiction.  Argentina believed duplication of efforts should be avoided, in particular with the work of other legal institutions - such as the International Law Commission - regarding the obligation to extradite or prosecute.  While she appreciated the Secretariat’s work in compiling information submitted by governments on the topic, she would have preferred the issue to be addressed in a manner that provided the Committee with the strictly objective elements needed.

Information contained in the Secretary-General’s report was useful, although it showed differences in international norms identified by States.  Sections of the report related to government-identified domestic legislation and international treaties showed that the categories of crimes provided for in the different circumstances did not necessarily coincide.  That discrepancy implied the possibility of differing interpretations on which international norms set out universal jurisdiction, as well as the possibility that national legislation might reflect such differences.  He called for the compilation of norms of international law that provided for universal jurisdiction as an objective basis for the Committee.

ZÉNON MUKONGO NGAY (Democratic Republic of Congo) spoke of abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction and the need to refocus the principle in light of the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in the application.  The principle which allowed States to exercise jurisdiction in matters of serious crimes of interest to the international community should not be misunderstood.  The application of the principle was to ensure that criminals would not “get off scot-free”.

However, he added, preconditions existed and a consensus was necessary to utilize the principle without problems.  Many States did not have the necessary legal framework and legislation to prosecute crimes that fell under the principle.  He said application of the principle seemed primarily directed at officials from the southern hemisphere.  On the other hand, if all 192 Members of the United Nations exercised universal jurisdiction it would be a “shambles”.  He called for the harmonizing of terms and definitions, and a consensus at the international level.

LESTER DELGADO SÁNCHEZ ( Cuba) said the fight against impunity must take place within the bounds of international law, and the principle of universal jurisdiction was wide open for abuse in that regard.  Invoking universal jurisdiction against persons holding immunity was unacceptable.  Also, treaty law was very clear with regard to not allowing actions to be brought against States that had not entered into a treaty.  The principle of universal jurisdiction should be incorporated into treaties and it should not supersede national legislation.  The crimes that fell within the jurisdiction of the principle should be set out.

GABRIEL SWINEY ( United States) said the understanding was that universal jurisdiction referred to the assertion of criminal jurisdiction by a State for certain grave offences, where the only link to the particular crime was the presence in its territory of the alleged offender.  Various federal criminal statutes provided United States courts with that type of jurisdiction over certain serious offences such as piracy, genocide, torture and those related to terrorism.  Such jurisdiction, when prudently applied with appropriate safeguards against inappropriate application, and with due consideration for the jurisdiction of other States, could be an important tool for ensuring that perpetrators of the most serious crimes were brought to justice.

The issue of universal jurisdiction was a complicated one.  So long there were situations involving genocide, crimes against humanity and piracy, universal jurisdiction remained relevant.  Despite that issue, and its long history as part of international law, basic questions remained about universal jurisdiction and the views and practices of States related to the topic.  Other questions included the appropriate scope of the principle, its relationship to treaty-based obligations and the need to ensure that decisions to invoke it were undertaken in an appropriate manner.  The practical application of universal jurisdiction differed among countries, such as how often it was invoked, whether alternative bases of jurisdiction were relied upon at the same time, and what safeguards were available to prevent inappropriate prosecutions.  Those areas warranted additional examination and discussion

JEAN-CÉDRIC JANSSENS DE BISTHOVEN ( Belgium) said there was a mistake in paragraph 22 of the Secretary-General’s report on the principle of aut dedere aut judicare.  He said that the original version of Belgium’s response, they considered the obligation of judicare vel dedere, which he said was more restrictive and comprehensive than the other.

He said the report also reflected the different definitions of different States.  As universal jurisdiction was to be exercised in the interest of the international community to combat serious crimes, he believed it would be possible for a consensus be reached.

Noting the request of the African Union that an international regulatory institution address the implementation, concerns and issues arising from the application of universal jurisdiction, he expressed reservations to such a mechanism, as he believed such issues and conflicts could be solved through existing treaties, agreements and laws.  However, he would not oppose the establishment of such an institution.

DONALD CHIDOWU (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was important that the international community come up with a uniform definition of universal jurisdiction, as well as further clarification on the scope and application of that concept, which would guide national courts in meeting the challenges of prosecuting violators of international rights.  There was also a need to clarify the rights and obligations of States under that principle, in order to minimize the potential for its misapplication for political ends and maximize the benefits of extraterritorial jurisdiction while avoiding double standards.  Since the application of the principle, and even its validity, remained topics of debate, the comments and observations of Member States were very valuable, he said.

PHAM VINH QUANG ( Viet Nam) said the concept of universal jurisdiction developed from the interests and efforts of the international community to combat certain serious crimes, the nature and gravity which affected the whole international community.  In order to strengthen the collective system of criminal justice to prevent impunity for perpetrators of such crimes, it was essential that criminal jurisdiction was established to prosecute them.  Jurisdiction was an important element of State sovereignty.  The exercise of State jurisdiction should be aimed at maintaining international order and be in keeping with international law.  The establishment of a State’s jurisdiction against a crime on the basis of universal jurisdiction must ensure respect for general principles of international law, including the principles of sovereign equality, political independence of States, non-interference in the internal affairs of States, diplomatic immunity, and the immunity of state officials.

As clearly reflected in the Secretary-General’s report, he said, Member States had different views on universal jurisdiction and how it should be applied.  To avoid misuse of universal jurisdiction, there needed to be a continuation of efforts to define the term and its scope, including types and range of crimes for which such jurisdiction could be invoked.

YARA SAAB (Lebanon) said the Secretary-General’s report shed light on the fact that legal uncertainty and the lack of uniformity in the application of universal jurisdiction was of major concern to many Member States.  While sharing such concerns, her delegation stressed its unwavering commitment to the promotion of human rights, the rule of law, the international legal system and the fight against impunity.

She said a functional understanding of universal jurisdiction required the resolution of underlying questions, she said.  Among them: which set of crimes allowed for the exercise of universal jurisdiction by a State against an alleged foreign perpetrator; how were the offences defined in the criminal code of the State invoking it; how would trials be conducted at the national level; and where would the line be drawn between the treaty-based obligation and the exercise of universal jurisdiction with a State’s discretion? 

She said Lebanon respectfully wished the Sixth Committee to sustain the constructive dialogue to achieve a better understanding of the application and scope of universal jurisdiction, which should contribute to cooperation by States and the collective promotion of justice, equality, human rights, international security and peace.

ARTO HAAPEA ( Finland) said national courts were crucial in ensuring that alleged perpetrators of the gravest crimes were brought to justice.  A national legal system bore the primary responsibility for investigating crimes and prosecuting alleged perpetrators.  It was important to distinguish between the jurisdictions of international criminal tribunals, which derived from their respective statutes, and the principle of universal jurisdiction, which was not a novelty in criminal law.

International customary law generally allowed the use of the principle in certain international crimes, he continued, adding that an underlying notion of universal jurisdiction in conventions obliged States parties either to extradite or prosecute suspects for acts prohibited under those conventions.  Even though the obligation to extradite or prosecute was distinct from the principle of universal jurisdiction, the two concepts were closely related, he said.

He recalled that in 2009, an initial case had been tried in his country on the basis of universal jurisdiction when a charge of genocide had been brought against a person residing in the country.  Since that person could not be extradited under Finnish law, he had been prosecuted in Finland.  Investigators had travelled outside the country several times to collect evidence, and the District Court handling the case had held sessions abroad to hear witnesses, he said.  In June, the District Court had found the defendant guilty of genocide and sentenced him to life imprisonment, in accordance with the Finnish Criminal Code.  The defendant and the Prosecutor had appealed the decision and the case remained pending in the Appeals Court.

In Finland, the debate was closely related to the rule of law, he said, adding that the fundamental concept of the rule of law was that every individual was accountable to laws that were publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, in addition to being consistent with the norms and standards of international human rights.  “No one is above the law,” he emphasized.  “These principles are all the more important with regard to crimes and atrocities that shock the conscience of humanity.”  The international community must act at both the national and international levels, he said.

IGOR PANIN (Russian Federation) said the Secretary-General’s report gave an indication of the wide range of views on the principle of universal jurisdiction, adding that his country only exercised it when it was explicitly included in a treaty.  In that context, the principle was an important tool in fighting impunity, yet caution must be used in exercising it in order to ensure the maintenance of friendly relations among States.  Other instruments and measures for preventing impunity were also available for consideration, including cooperation among States in conducting investigations.  The International Law Commission should be relied upon as a resource, he said.

CETA NOLAND ( Netherlands) said universal jurisdiction was important in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes under international law.  The report by the Secretary-General provided a synopsis of issues for possible discussion.  Issues for further study could include whether the presence of an accused in the State exercising universal jurisdiction was required, and also the relationship between universal jurisdiction and other bases of jurisdiction, including territoriality.  However, existing mechanisms already adequately allowed for resolution of any disputes connected with universal jurisdiction, so the Netherlands did not see merit in the proposal for a new international regulatory body to that end.

Procedure was a topic that ought to be discussed in a legal context in preparation for future consideration by the Sixth Committee.  If it were considered useful to ask the International Law Commission to further consider the topic, the Netherlands would propose further reflection on how to specify the framework for the Commission’s work.  Reviews of universal jurisdiction should consider work on the topic already undertaken out by others.

She requested that a sentence in the Secretary-General’s report (the second sentence of paragraph 101) be corrected to read: “Besides two cases against Dutch nationals, these cases were premised on universal criminal jurisdiction, the defendants — one Congolese, three Afghan and two Rwandan nationals — being present in the Netherlands in each case.”

EBENEZER APPREKU ( Ghana) said African States were not questioning the existence of universal jurisdiction, but were addressing the principle as it had been “misunderstood, misapplied or misused” specifically in recent cases of concern to some of those States.  Issues were raised when national authorities sought to rely on their own municipal laws as a basis for the exercise of the principle.  The growing number of norms for international criminal justice, including those established in treaties, aimed at combating impunity.  However, some had “wrongly interpreted this welcome trend as justifying the existence of universal jurisdiction under customary law”.

He said there had been several decades of attempts to address the scope and application of the universal jurisdiction principle, which had not resulted in consensus.  He noted the Rome Statute establishing the permanent international court to address the issue of universal jurisdiction, which would apply once membership of the Statute’s became truly universal.

He said African States were also concerned when the principle came into conflict with well-established customary rules of international law regarding the immunity and inviolability of State officials.  He called for the clarification and definition of crimes which had been vaguely characterized as “shocking the conscience of mankind” as part of the process of harmonizing the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction.

GHAZI JOMAA ( Tunisia) noted the absence of a common understanding of the principle of universal jurisdiction, shown in the many divergent views on its scope and application.  The rationale for universal jurisdiction, he said, was based on the idea that certain crimes were so grave in nature that States were compelled to undertake legal proceedings on behalf of the international community, when States having jurisdiction failed to do so or when international courts and tribunals lacked jurisdiction.  However, the Secretary-General’s report revealed that many countries had discretion over whether or not to exercise universal jurisdiction.  That could lead to bias, undermining the “doctrinal rationale” for the principle.

It was essential, he said, that measures to end impunity not result in abuse or conflict with the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.  The legitimacy and credibility of the principle was best ensured in its use as a measure of last resort, with safeguards to prevent its abuse for political gains.  If invoked selectively on the basis of political motivations, universal jurisdiction could “threaten peace and stability among nations”.

RETA ALEMU NEGA ( Ethiopia) said he shared the concern of fellow African Union members over the abuse of the basic principle of the immunity of high-level State officials through the issuance of warrants against sitting African Heads of State.  The growing tendency to apply the principle of universal jurisdiction in an unregulated and arbitrary manner defied the rule of law and was deplorable.  In the absence of a generally accepted definition of the concept or the scope of crimes covered, the application would inevitably be subjective.  Therefore, the scope and application should be limited until a standard was created to avoid selectivity and politicizing.  The application of the principle beyond the norms of international law presented a danger to international legality and order.  A clear distinction should be drawn between the legal and political challenges involved and those that were political should be taken up at the plenary level.  Finally, the distinction between universal jurisdiction and international legality should be clarified.

CLAUDIA VALENZUELA (El Salvador) said the principle of universal jurisdiction should be investigated from a strictly legal angle.  On a national level, the principle was applied through El Salvador’s domestic laws.  Its scope of “attribution of competency” included, among others, a crime defined by international law, an international crime punishable under the national legislation, or crimes under a treaty to which the State was a party.  That was also complemented on a constitutional level.

For crimes not specifically noted, she said El Salvador resorted to international laws that had been established in the criminal code and through the provisions of international law that were now part of the national framework. Thus, the “universal” principle was provided for under its national jurisdiction.  In order for debate on that topic to continue, it must be clear what Member States wanted to achieve.  To that end, she supported the establishment of a working group.  While it was important not to duplicate efforts, she was not calling into question the work by other bodies on the subject.  However, such a working group would further strengthen the dialogue and the exploration of the principle.

CHRISTOPH RETZLAFF (Germany) said the principle of universal jurisdiction was a legitimate tool to prevent impunity, and international customary law clearly allowed its invocation for international crimes.  A number of treaties even obliged States to apply it, he added.  The principle of universal jurisdiction meant that Germany’s courts could try crimes committed abroad, irrespective of the law prevailing in the locality where the offence had taken place, the nationality of the alleged perpetrator or that of the victim.  The competent German court could exercise jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against persons, private property and other rights, humanitarian operations and emblems, as well as war crimes concerning illegal methods or means of war.

He went on to say that according to Germany’s general Criminal Code, courts could also exercise universal jurisdiction over various serious crimes, such as those involving nuclear energy, explosives or radiation; attacks against air or sea traffic; trafficking in human beings; unauthorized distribution of narcotics; dissemination of pornographic writings; counterfeiting; subsidy of fraud; as well as other crimes committed abroad, if they must be prosecuted on the basis of binding international agreements.  While some States still had concerns about the application of universal jurisdiction, Germany held that consideration of the subject could be entrusted to the International Law Commission, he said.

THANISA NAIDU (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that from reading the Secretary-General’s report, her delegation had noted that there were restrictions or limitations placed on some Governments to exercise jurisdiction generally or with specific reference to universal jurisdiction in their countries, which underscored its tenuous position in some States.  While the nature of a crime in some States was important in that certain international crimes may be prosecuted without having to prove a jurisdictional link, the focus in others was narrower and specific to the enforcement or adjudicatory aspects of jurisdiction.

Regarding the scope of universal jurisdiction, she said States distinguished among absolute, conditional or limited universal jurisdiction, but as a general rule, the principle could only be exercised when the alleged perpetrator was present in the State’s territory at the time of legal proceedings.  Distinctions also applied to the specific crimes falling under universal jurisdiction, such as piracy, slavery, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  For South Africa, she stated, “the act of incorporating the crimes in question into domestic law would provide the basis for jurisdiction.”  What was clear was the need for more work in that area, and to that end, South Africa supported the proposal for a working group to determine the similarities and differences in how States treated universal jurisdiction.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.