Universal Jurisdiction

No safe havens for torturers.

Under international law, all states have an obligation to cooperate to ensure that individuals accused of torture and other international crimes do not escape justice.

The principle of universal jurisdiction recognises that some crimes are so heinous that every state has an interest in seeing that justice is done: it is not only an issue for the state where the crimes took place.

Under the Convention Against Torture, States Parties are obligated to either: i) extradite a suspect to face a trial in another country; or ii) proceed to bring a suspect to trial before domestic courts, where there is sufficient evidence.

The application of universal jurisdiction is vital to achieving justice for torture survivors in a globalised world for several reasons:
  • Prosecuting an accused person in the country in which the crimes were committed can be difficult if this country is emerging from conflict, as courts may not yet be sufficiently independent or impartial to guarantee a fair trial.
  • If crimes are perpetrated with the involvement or acquiescence of the State it is not likely that this same State will prosecute.
  • International criminal courts have limited mandates and are not usually in a position to try all accused persons, particularly if the accused persons are not the leaders with high levels of responsibility, or if the State has not ratified the International Criminal Court Statute.
REDRESS collaborates with a range of organisations throughout the world to support the application of universal jurisdiction for the crime of torture.

REDRESS plays a key role in monitoring its application and supports investigations relating to torture suspects, including those located in the United Kingdom and The Netherlands.

REDRESS also collaborates with the EU Genocide Network, which was established by the Council of the European Union in 2002 to ensure close cooperation between the national authorities in investigating and prosecuting the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

REDRESS works to keep practitioners up to date on the very latest developments with the application of universal jurisdiction.

The REDRESS Universal Jurisdiction Listserv mailing list provides subscribers with the latest information on this important area, including updates about new laws and developments in casework.

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