The Quiet Expansion of Universal Jurisdiction

European Journal of International Law (Forthcoming)

UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 19-02

45 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2019

See all articles by Maximo Langer

Maximo Langer

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Mackenzie Eason

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

Based on an original world-wide survey of all universal jurisdiction complaints over core international crimes presented between 1961 and 2017 and against widespread perception by international criminal law experts that universal jurisdiction is in decline, this article shows that universal jurisdiction practice has been quietly expanding as there has been a significant growth in the number of universal jurisdiction trials, in the frequency with which these trials take place year by year, and in the geographical scope of universal jurisdiction litigation. This expansion is likely the result of, among other factors, the adoption of ICC implementing statutes, the creation of specialized international crimes units by states, institutional learning by states and NGOs, technological changes, new migration and refugee waves to universal jurisdiction states, criticisms of international criminal law as neo-colonial, and the search of new venues by human rights NGOs. Universal jurisdiction’s expansion has been quiet because most tried defendants have been low-level, universal jurisdiction states have not made an effort to publicize these trials, and observers have wrongly assumed Belgium and Spain were representative of universal jurisdiction trends. The paper finally assesses positive and negative aspects of the quiet expansion of universal jurisdiction for its defenders and critics.

Keywords: Universal Jurisdiction, Transnational Prosecutions, Domestic Trials of International Crimes

JEL Classification: K14, K33, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Langer, Maximo and Eason, Mackenzie, The Quiet Expansion of Universal Jurisdiction (2018). European Journal of International Law (Forthcoming); UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 19-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3324891

Maximo Langer (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Mackenzie Eason

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Department of Political Science ( email )

Los Angeles, CA
United States

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