September 16, 2019
 In 2023-The Principle of Universal Jurisdiction

Country: Palestinian Authority
Delegate Name: Reese Bower

Universal jurisdiction, first introduced in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, is the idea that certain crimes are serious enough that they affect the world as a whole. Utilizing universal jurisdiction, any country can prosecute a particularly heinous crime–such as torture, genocide, or ethnic cleansing–occurring anywhere. This works to ensure that no atrocious crimes go unpunished and that there are no “safe havens” for commitors of these crimes. Certain treaties, including the 1973 Convention against Apartheid and the 1984 Convention against Torture, call upon the implementation of universal jurisdiction by states parties. Although the principle of universal jurisdiction works to ensure heinous crimes are prosecuted, it is complicated by the balance between state sovereignty and the pursuit of international justice it requires.

The abundance of atrocious crimes that have both already occurred and are currently occurring in Palestine makes universal jurisdiction crucial. According to the 1995 Israel-Palestine Interim Agreement, Palestinian courts do not have jurisdiction over Israelis, rendering the Palestinian court useless for addressing Israeli war crimes. Although Israeli courts are supposed to recognize and prosecute Israeli crimes, they prove inadequate, perpetuating a system where Palestinian justice is difficult to achieve without the use of universal jurisdiction. Attempts at the prosecution of Israelis through universal jurisdiction have been made, but they have failed. An arrest warrant by a London court for Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni was unsuccessful when it was ruled she had immunity due to a “special mission”; British courts additionally warranted an arrest of Israeli General Doron Almog for alleged war crimes, but he evaded the arrest. Although Palestine is a state party to the Rome Statute and it was ruled that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction in prosecuting war crimes in Palestine, universal jurisdiction is a necessary further method to hold committers of war crimes in Palestine accountable.

Palestine supports the just use of universal jurisdiction, therefore looking favorably upon the inclusion of preventative measures for countries either exercising or deliberately not exercising universal jurisdiction for political motives. Additionally, Palestine demands the fortification of universal jurisdiction to fill the gap in prosecution by the ICC, as they only have jurisdiction over crimes occurring in state parties or committed by the nationals of state parties. This can be achieved through cooperation with the state’s national court to ensure the prosecution of heinous crimes, implementation of terms for removal of immunity to universal jurisdiction applying to officials complacent in global atrocities, and application of international standards to which fair and just trials comply.

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