Research Projects Contact Information

The Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights
Faculty of Law
P.O. BOX 4 (visiting address: Yliopistonkatu 3)
FI-00014 UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
Tel: +358 (0)29 4123140

intlaw-institute(at)helsinki.fi







Universal Jurisdiction: Scope and Application

Universal jurisdiction, similarly to other forms of jurisdiction in international criminal law determining the state responsibility for prosecuting a crime, is embedded with difficulties that may lead to jurisdictional conflicts among states. Yet, taking into consideration that it allows states to prosecute extraterritorial offences without the links or criteria underlying other principles of jurisdiction, it remains most controversial of them. Through the application of this principle state extends the scope of its criminal law beyond its borders, interfering with the sovereign powers of another state. Such interference has been justified by the fact that universal jurisdiction is based on the interest of international community, rather than of the prosecuting state. Existing concerns and challenges regarding application of universal jurisdiction are rooted in the construction of the concept itself as well as in the geo-political structure and dynamics of international community.

The aim of the research is to outline the difficulties in application of universal jurisdiction, taking into account in particular concerns raised by the African States and the African Union. The research analyses the origins, scope and application of the principle paying attention to challenges regarding its application under national jurisdictions. The study focuses mostly on recent developments regarding, in particular, equal application of universal jurisdiction and discusses different alternatives to alleviate those concerns that can be undertaken on both international and national levels.

Project is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Researcher: LL.D. Magdalena Kmak


Duration: 1.1.2010 – 31.8.2010

Keywords: universal jurisdiction, human rights, law, jurisdiction, international law, passive nationality, active nationality, protective principle, immunity, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, genocide.