Universal Jurisdiction, Universal Prescription? A Preliminary Assessment of the African Union Perspective on Universal Jurisdiction

67 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2009 Last revised: 12 Oct 2017

See all articles by Charles Chernor Jalloh

Charles Chernor Jalloh

Florida International University College of Law

Date Written: December 21, 2009

Abstract

As a measure to combat impunity, the idea that any country in the world may assert jurisdiction over anyone involved in serious international crimes, irrespective of the place of the offence or the nationality of the perpetrator or victim, is compelling both logically and morally. Legally, however, ‘universal jurisdiction’ remains highly contested. When invoked, it often leads to serious disagreements between states regarding its nature, content and scope of application. This article examines one such and recent dispute between the African and European Unions. It analyzes the recent African government objections to the use of universal jurisdiction by French and Spanish courts against certain Rwandan officials. The author suggests that while part of the African Union concern seems exaggerated, its current stance exposes legitimate concerns about the legality, legitimacy and practicality of universal jurisdiction. These should be addressed to harness the immense potential of the universality principle. He also challenges the propriety of prosecuting alleged African crimes within the national courts of certain European states, especially former colonial powers like Belgium, which was historically implicated in crimes against humanity in places like the Congo. He concludes with some preliminary observations welcoming the recent African proposal to clarify, within the framework of the United Nations General Assembly, the scope and limits of universal jurisdiction.

Keywords: universal jurisdiction, universality principle, universal jurisdiction in Africa, African Union position on universal jurisdiction, immunities of African heads of state, European Union position on universal jurisdiction, Rose Kabuye, Rwandans indicted in France, Rwandans indicted in Spain

Suggested Citation

Jalloh, Charles Chernor, Universal Jurisdiction, Universal Prescription? A Preliminary Assessment of the African Union Perspective on Universal Jurisdiction (December 21, 2009). Criminal Law Forum, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 1-65, March 2010; U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-38; Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-28. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1526622

Charles Chernor Jalloh (Contact Author)

Florida International University College of Law ( email )

11200 SW 8th Street
RDB Hall 1097
Miami, FL 33199
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.fiu.edu

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