The Rise and Fall of Universal Jurisdiction
HANDBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW, W. Schabas and N. Bernaz, eds., London: Routledge, 2010
36 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 16, 2010
The article considers the rise and fall of universal jurisdiction. I begin by revisiting the unique Zeitgeist of the 1990s and by broaching the actors behind the campaign for universal jurisdiction. Then I discuss how these actors, mainly non-governmental organizations, framed the issue and how policy-oriented international lawyers constructed the legal argument. Thereafter I review the (alleged) historical sources of universal jurisdiction and their contemporary (distorted) interpretation. My subsequent examination of post-World War II multilateral treaty practice finds little enthusiasm among states for universal jurisdiction. After that I assess cases of the last fifteen or so years, distinguishing between “hard” cases (in courts) and “virtual” cases (in the media). Next I show in a brief post mortem how a backlash in Africa, the United States, Israel, and China against virtual trials in Europe caused the premature end of universal jurisdiction. In the final section I draw some lessons and ponder its future.
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