Make way for Justice #4: momentum towards accountability

12.03.2018 ( Last modified: 19.03.2018 )

Universal jurisdiction is here to stay. In their annual report Make way for justice #4TRIAL International and its partners FIDH, ECCHR, REDRESS and FIBGAR illustrate the international momentum towards accountability through 58 cases, involving 126 suspects.



Rarely has the fight against impunity been so dynamic. In 2017, countries in Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America have tightened the net on war criminals by resorting to universal jurisdiction.

This principle enables States to prosecute alleged authors of international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity, regardless of their nationality or where the crime was committed.

To overcome the specific challenges of universal jurisdiction, a wide number of States have set up specialized war crimes units (WCU). Last year alone, these units reportedly investigated, prosecuted or brought to justice 126 suspects of the gravest crimes.

Many more investigations are ongoing. “States who commit sufficient means to specialized units are leading the fight against impunity today by turning the word justice into action” says Valerie Paulet, Trial Watch coordinator and author of the report.



The Make way for Justice #4 report also points to these achievements’ prerequisites. Strong WCUs have in common sufficient resources and staff and enjoy a high degree of autonomy as well as specialized and diversified State expertise from departments such as the police or immigration.

In contrast, the United Kingdom has, for instance, merged its WCU with counter-terrorism and the work of Swiss’ WCU is weakened by having to share its resources with the mutual judicial assistance’s unit.

Philip Grant, TRIAL International’s director, underlines the need for improved coherence and efficiency in investigating and bringing to justice universal jurisdiction cases. “Prosecution of war crimes requires sufficient resources and independence. States that are lagging behind in implementing universal jurisdiction must step up efforts to equip prosecutors accordingly.”


Discover the report


Learn more on Universal Jurisdiction

What is universal jurisdiction?
Read Make way for Justice #3 (2017)
Read Make way for Justice #2 (2016)
Read Make way for Justice #1 (2015)

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