How do dif­fer­ent coun­tries pros­e­cute geno­cide, crimes against human­i­ty, war crimes, tor­ture and enforced dis­ap­pear­ance? Togeth­er with Open Soci­ety Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive (OSJI), TRIAL Inter­na­tion­al worked on a thor­ough analy­sis of the laws and prac­tices of eight coun­tries relat­ing to their inves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion of those crimes under uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion. The two orga­ni­za­tions are now pub­lish­ing a series of reports com­par­ing the legal sys­tems of Cana­da, Fin­land, France, Ger­many, The Nether­lands, Nor­way, Swe­den, and Switzerland.

TRIAL Inter­na­tion­al pub­lish a series of reports com­par­ing the legal sys­tems of 8 coun­tries. @TRIAL Inter­na­tion­al | Landry Nshimiye
Uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion allows for the pros­e­cu­tion of crimes regard­less of where such crimes were com­mit­ted, and irre­spec­tive of the nation­al­i­ty of the vic­tims or of the per­pe­tra­tors. With­in this frame­work, each coun­try defines the spe­cif­ic crimes that can be pros­e­cut­ed with­in its bor­ders under uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion. Modes of lia­bil­i­ty, con­di­tions trig­ger­ing juris­dic­tion, evi­den­tiary require­ments, wit­ness and victim’s pro­tec­tion or repa­ra­tions for vic­tims: these ques­tions, and numer­ous oth­ers, often vary from one coun­try to anoth­er. These reports aim to help lawyers and NGOs sup­port­ing vic­tims of the gravest crimes to seek jus­tice under uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion in states where they do not nec­es­sar­i­ly know the law and practices.

The research was pri­mar­i­ly built on an analy­sis of the dif­fer­ent legal sys­tems based on a ques­tion­naire com­piled by OSJI and TRIAL Inter­na­tion­al and sub­mit­ted to local lawyers. This phase was com­plet­ed through inter­views with legal experts such as pros­e­cu­tors with­in nation­al war crime units, lawyers in uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion cas­es, aca­d­e­mics spe­cial­iz­ing in inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal law and NGOs fight­ing against impuni­ty. This prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive allowed us to con­struct an analy­sis of the legal frame­work in each coun­try stud­ied. While every effort has been made to ensure the accu­ra­cy of the infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed, read­ers are advised to con­firm the cur­ren­cy of any pro­vi­sions cited.

The research reveals that some states are active­ly resort­ing to uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion to inves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute inter­na­tion­al crimes, such as France, Ger­many and The Nether­lands. France and Ger­many have even joined forces to enhance their capac­i­ty of inves­ti­ga­tion in rela­tion to crimes com­mit­ted in Syria.

The reports draw atten­tion to the fact that the uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion frame­work varies from one coun­try to anoth­er, which makes it com­plex for prac­ti­tion­ers to build cas­es. Require­ments to exer­cise uni­ver­sal juris­dic­tion will change depend­ing on var­i­ous aspects, such as the nature of the crime or the nexus with the state exer­cis­ing juris­dic­tion. TRIAL Inter­na­tion­al hopes this research will help lawyers and NGOs to find their way in the dif­fer­ent legal sys­tems studied.