States Agree New Treaty to Fight Impunity for the Most Serious International Crimes

Today, over 70 States agreed on a new treaty that will enhance international legal cooperation in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes following two weeks of negotiations in Slovenia. 

The new Ljubljana-Hague Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes and other International Crimes, sets out the obligations on States regarding legal cooperation and extradition in the investigation of these crimes under international law. It will enter into force after three States ratify it. The treaty will facilitate judicial cooperation among States during the investigation and prosecution of international crimes, and recognises States’ obligations to prosecute or extradite perpetrators of core international crimes, an important step for the international fight against impunity for gross human rights violations.  

The treaty also contains important provisions towards achieving victims’ rights to reparation. It recognises the rights of victims of international crimes to reparation and to participate in criminal proceedings. Furthermore, it provides avenues for States to cooperate towards the implementation of reparation awards and orders, including through the confiscation of assets. However, it was of concern efforts by a few States to dilute the obligation to prosecute or extradite perpetrators, with a view to secure discretion on whether to investigate and prosecute suspects present on their territory, although the resistance with which they were met from many States, ensured that this exception was limited at the end. 

Julie Bardeche, Legal Advisor at REDRESS, said: 

“This Convention will greatly help the fight against impunity by reducing safe havens for perpetrators of the most serious international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It will also help realise victims’ rights to an effective remedy. 80 States have shown their determination to advance these aims by supporting the Convention. We now urge States to sign and ratify the Convention without reservations to make it effective.” 

Background information

The Ljubljana-The Hague Convention is the result of a decade-long endeavour, known as the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Initiative. Recent decades have seen increased efforts at the national level to investigate and prosecute individuals and companies responsible for the most serious international crimes. Since 2011, a group of States had advocated for a new multilateral treaty to enhance cooperation between States in the investigation and prosecution of serious international crimes. The MLA Initiative was supported by 80 countries from all regions of the world. 

Civil society organisations closely followed the development of the MLA Initiative, as the treaty provides an opportunity to strengthen the legal framework to fight against impunity in relation to international crimes, by lessening the obstacles national authorities face in gaining access to suspects, witnesses, evidence and assets located beyond their borders. 

REDRESS has worked with other organisations in previous submissions to the States in the lead up to the Diplomatic Conference in Ljubljana (Slovenia), during which the treaty was adopted. In these submissions, among others, we urged States to include stronger provisions that reaffirm victims’ rights and recognise the crucial role they play in the investigation and prosecution of serious international crimes. We also called on Statesto prioritise victims’ rights.  

Read ourinformation sheet on the MLA. 

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