Prosecuting Atrocities Committed in Ukraine: A New Era for Universal Jurisdiction?

18 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2022

See all articles by Yvonne Dutton

Yvonne Dutton

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law; Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Date Written: October 2, 2022

Abstract

Numerous countries have announced their intention to domestically prosecute crimes being committed following Russia’s invasion in Ukraine using their version of universal jurisdiction. What role, though, can we expect these efforts to play in providing justice to victims of the already vast number of crimes that have been reportedly committed in Ukraine since Russia’s February 2022 invasion? On the one hand, there is every reason to believe that without states playing such an active role in providing accountability, a significant number of perpetrators will escape justice despite the other mechanisms that are currently being employed or under discussion. On the other hand, historically states have not regularly invoked universal jurisdiction in its pure form which assumes prosecuting offenses where the state has no nexus to the offense—where the crimes were not committed on its territory or by or against its nationals. Nor have they frequently invoked universal jurisdiction against high-level perpetrators.

This Article analyzes the potential use of universal jurisdiction in the Ukraine situation, concluding on a cautionary note. It commends states for stepping up to announce their intention to mount universal jurisdiction prosecutions to aid in ending impunity in the Ukraine situation. Indeed, it encourages those and other states to be willing to invoke universal jurisdiction over offenders. Nevertheless, it suggests that these proposed universal jurisdiction prosecutions, while helpful, may not be able to meaningfully close any impunity and accountability gap in the Ukraine situation.

Keywords: Universal Jurisdiction, Ukraine, Accountability

Suggested Citation

Dutton, Yvonne and Dutton, Yvonne, Prosecuting Atrocities Committed in Ukraine: A New Era for Universal Jurisdiction? (October 2, 2022). Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4235676

Yvonne Dutton (Contact Author)

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

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