Sept 6 2016 old bailey_central criminal court

UK updates referral guidelines on universal jurisdiction crimes

The UK has revised its War Crimes/Crimes Against Humanity Referral Guidelines, which set out the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service’s policy on determining whether to investigate referrals of torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The updated guidelines can be found on the CPS’s website. Three changes have been made, all in the section concerning the scoping exercise. The changes are explained below.

Location of suspects of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, torture or hostage taking

In the guideline questions about individuals suspected to have committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, torture or hostage taking, question A.2.7 was previously worded “Is the suspect present in the UK?”. The question has now been re-phrased to “Are there reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect is present in the UK?”.

Question A.2.8 previously asked “Is there a reasonable prospect of the suspect coming to the UK?”. This question has been amended to “Are there reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect will come to the UK?”.

Complaints in other jurisdictions

Part A.5 of the referral guidelines is dedicated to complaints in other jurisdictions. The referral guidelines include a requirement that the party making the complaint be asked whether they have previously made complaints about the suspect in other jurisdictions (A.5.1). If affirmative, the party should be asked whether an investigation into these complaints has taken place or is ongoing in another jurisdiction (A.5.2). In addition to these two points, the amended version of the guidelines now contains a further point (A.5.3), which states: “If there is an effective ongoing investigation in a more appropriate jurisdiction or an authority in a more appropriate jurisdiction is genuinely able and willing to conduct an effective investigation, then SO15 may decide not to open its own investigation. Any decision not to investigate by SO15 will be reviewed upon receipt of new information”.


Summary prepared by Estelle Zirn, legal intern at REDRESS.