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Make Way for Justice: universal jurisdiction in 2014 scrutinized by three NGOs

14.04.2015 ( Last modified: 12.07.2017 )

TRIAL, ECCHR and FIDH have published their first annual review of the main universal jurisdiction cases in 2014. “Make Way for Justice” examines all cases in which notable developments occurred in 2014. A total of 37 cases were studied in order to gain a better understanding of the potential of this under-exploited principle in the fight against impunity.

All too often, perpetrators of international crimes escape justice by fleeing to other countries. However, a legal principle exists to more effectively fight this form of impunity:universal jurisdiction. It enables States to prosecute and try – under certain conditions – suspects of international crimes regardless of where the crimes were committed and the nationality of the perpetrators and victims.

Universal jurisdiction is a central tool of the work carried out by TRIAL, ECCHR and FIDH in their fight against impunity. Indeed, the three NGOs rely on this principle to report suspects of international crimes to national or foreign authorities, so that those authorities can initiate criminal proceedings against the suspects. Today, these NGOs have published a study entitled: “2014 universal jurisdiction annual review: Make Way for Justice!”.

The first review of its kind, “Make Way for Justice” catalogues universal jurisdiction cases around the world, in which important developments have been made in 2014. The Franco dictatorship in Spain, the first Liberian Civil War under the presidency of Charles Taylor, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the crimes committed in Syria since 2011 feature among the 37 cases addressed in the review. These legal proceedings demonstrate the increasing use of this principle to fight impunity. The study analyses cases in 12 countries – including Germany, the UK, Senegal and Norway – which, thanks to universal jurisdiction, opened investigations, indicted or tried suspects of the most serious international crimes in 2014.

We have come a long way since the Pinochet case in 1998, which was one of the first times universal jurisdiction was applied. Nonetheless, while significant advances have been made in universal jurisdiction cases over the past year, there are still several major obstacles to its use. “Make Way for Justice” takes stock of these successes and the progress that remains to be made.

An international law reference tool, this study is intended for legal practitioners, media representatives, NGOs and human rights defenders who wish to gain a better understanding of universal jurisdiction and how it works. TRIAL, ECCHR and FIDH hope that this publication will open the way for new proceedings against the perpetrators of serious crimes, help combat impunity, and increase a better understanding for universal jurisdiction prosecutions.

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