Document Type

Conference Proceeding


This is a revised version of a paper presented at the 7th Cornell Inter-University Graduate Student Conference, April 2011.


The exercise of universal jurisdiction in cases involving crimes under international law remains highly debated and underlines a certain number of legal and political issues in its implementation. Because the principle of universal jurisdiction relies on national authorities to enforce international prohibitions, pivotal decisions are expected to reflect, to a greater or lesser extent, domestic decision-makers’ positions as to the interests of justice, the national interest and other criteria. In many States, the legal system lacks the means to investigate or prosecute on the basis of universal jurisdiction. Indeed, many legal systems do not define the term “crimes” that can be prosecuted under the principle and continue to apply domestic criminal law. The purpose of this article is to discuss the scope of universal jurisdiction and the risks that are associated with its application. In particular, this article highlights the various obstacles that may explain why universal jurisdiction has yet proven to be an effective tool to combat impunity. Finally, this article proposes the optimal solution that may remedy the current inadequacies associated with the implementation of the principle of universal jurisdiction and that will ensure peace and justice against heinous crimes within the international community. Considering the obstacles and risks associated with the scope and application of universal jurisdiction, the best way to protect the international community from being affected by crimes left unpunished is to “remove” the exercise of universal jurisdiction from the States and confer it on the International Criminal Court so that these crimes are punished fairly and according to uniform laws.

Date of Authorship for this Version



Universal jurisdiction, International criminal law, International crimes, International Criminal Court