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The Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction

Magdalena Kmak: The Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction

Erik Castrén Institute Research Reports 28/2011, Helsinki 2008, ISBN: 978-952-10-6813-3, 169 pages, 20€

Universal jurisdiction, understood broadly as the right to prosecute perpetrators of serious international crimes regardless of any jurisdictional link recognised by international criminal law, exists in the realm of literature rather than in reality. Yet it has recently become a topic of heated discussions both in bilateral relations between States and within international and regional organisations. In particular the appropriateness of European States extending their jurisdiction universally has been recently put to question on the African side as a procedure bearing traces of the colonial past. This issue has been raised by the African Union in its relations with the European Union and within the confined new agenda item at the United Nations General Assembly. In addition it is being indirectly dealt with by the International Law Commission in its research on the obligation to extradite or prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare).
This study focuses on those recent political and legal developments regarding universal jurisdiction, taking into account in particular concerns raised by the African States and the African Union. It analyses the origins, and legal rules guiding the application of this principle paying attention to difficulties and challenges of its use under national jurisdictions. Finally the report proposes alternatives and pragmatic avenues for dealing with existing concerns that can be undertaken on both international and national levels.
The study is the result of a research project commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.


This report is the result of a research project commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

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