UJAR 2021: The Impact of Coronavirus on Universal Jurisdiction
The 2021 Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review (UJAR), published today by TRIAL International, REDRESS, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Center for Justice and Accountability and Civitas Maxima, highlights the impact of covid-19 on prosecutions of torture, war crimes and other universal jurisdiction crimes across the world.
Strengthening remote investigations
While field investigations were considerably limited by national lockdowns and movement restrictions, NGOs had to find new ways of getting in touch with victims and witnesses. These brought some advantages: victims and witnesses could talk remotely from their homes, reducing risks of being overheard or followed. Being in a familiar space was also comforting for vulnerable individuals, who could share their experiences in a safe environment.
On the investigators’ side, online interviews meant they could speak to witnesses spread throughout the world in a single day, speeding up their work considerably. This, however, required additional efforts to ensure understanding, consent and, of course, the utmost security for interviewees.
Reaping the efforts from previous years
18 new cases went to trial in 2020, bringing the total to 30 ongoing trials. Perhaps the most prominent trial in recent years opened in Germany against Syrians Anwar R. and Eyad A. It made international headlines and was unanimously hailed as a significant step against impunity for State crimes. Other high-profile cases include Fabien Neretsé in Belgium, Roger Lumbala in France and Alieu Kosiah in Switzerland.
This publication was researched and produced by TRIAL International. It benefited from the generous support of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, the Oak Foundation, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office of the United Kingdom and the City of Geneva. It was researched with the contribution of REDRESS, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Center for Justice and Accountability and Civitas Maxima.