TRIAL INTERNATIONAL – Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review 2020 – Terrorism and international crimes: prosecuting atrocities for what they are
Six years ago, we published the first Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review (UJAR) with the view to explain and democratize this legal tool. What universal jurisdiction was and how it worked remained at the time widely unknown to those who were not legal experts. And even within the legal community, it met with substantial skepticism.
A few years later the UJAR – its number of pages steadily increasing – started to focus on best practices and successful litigation strategies. As victims from war-struck Syria and Iraq took refuge in Europe, the number of universal jurisdiction cases increased significantly, often initiated by national authorities themselves. For many individuals, seeking justice in their host country was the only option, and so the debate shifted from whether to use universal jurisdiction to how. It is our hope that the UJAR, conceived as a concrete tool for practitioners, encouraged this trend.
This year, the UJAR focuses on the risks of confusing the prosecution of international crimes with the fight against terrorism. The implications of choosing pragmatism to the detriment of sound legal principles are substantial, and the consequences potentially grave. All mass atrocities should be fully and diligently investigated, even if such investigations are longer and more strenuous.
And yet. Looking back and measuring how far we have come in these past six years, we are hopeful that universal jurisdiction has rooted deeply enough to overcome this trend. The first UJARs were entitled Make way for Justice. We are convinced that the way has been made, that a breach has indeed been opened in the wall of impunity. Now we must keep up the fight to ensure all mass atrocities, regardless of who committed them and where, are prosecuted for what they are: international crimes.
As usual, we rely on your support to achieve this goal, and wish you an interesting reading.
TRIAL International Executive Director