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

Country: Poland
Delegate Name: KenZie Low

Legal Committee
Principle of Universal Jurisdiction
Republic of Poland
KenZie Low
City High Middle

Universal Jurisdiction is defined as the ability of any nation to prosecute a perpetrator of heinous crimes, no matter the nationality or the State in which the perpetrator is located. Universal Jurisdiction was created in the Geneva Conventions to ensure global justice. It is important to differentiate the ICC and Universal Jurisdiction, as the limited jurisdiction of the ICC allows for perpetrators to be left unpunished. Famous cases of universal jurisdiction are the following: the prosecution of a senior Nazi official in 1961 tried by Israel for his role in the Holocaust, and the UK’s vote of the Spanish prosecution of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for alleged torture. There are 194 signatories of the Geneva Conventions, meaning that the signatory States are obligated to prosecute perpetrators of international crimes if they are in their territory. However, with the right of states to prosecute perpetrators outside their country, states are concerned with potential misuse, abuse, or state sovereignty being affected by such a right. Additionally, to be effective, such prosecution must address the complexity of indicting international crimes and the difficulty that some nations might have with prosecuting war crimes and collecting evidence. As there are many differing opinions on how Universal Jurisdiction should be applied, the definition of Universal Jurisdiction must be adjusted to be legally clear and certain.

The Polish Criminal Code states the requirements of Polish universal jurisdiction for multiple scenarios. This revised code was sent to the UN by Prof. Przemyslaw Saganek, Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in 2016. First, Polish criminal law applies to the acts of Polish nationals or foreigners committed aboard without the crime being punishable in the territory in which the crime was committed. However, the act must be aligned with international law or the ICC statute. The foreigner is punished unless he is extradited. Second, the Polish State may penalize a Polish national for a crime committed abroad if the crime hurts Poland’s economy or Poland’s agencies. For a foreigner to be punished in Poland for committing a crime against the Polish State, the same rules apply except the crime must be a crime in the territory in which it was committed. Third, for foreign perpetrators who committed a crime that does not directly affect Poland or is not aligned with international law, several criteria must be met for Poland to apply their criminal law to them: the crime committed must be punishable by two years of imprisonment by Polish law, it must be penalized in the state in which the crime was committed, and the perpetrator is in Poland and is not set to be extradited. This scenario is very rare. Poland has developed these provisions to ensure rightful and respectful universal jurisdiction laws for their country and its citizens. The nation began to exercise universal jurisdiction on March 1, 2022, as the Polish Minister of Justice tried to initiate proceedings against Russia for alleged war crimes during its attack on Ukraine. Additionally, Poland is part of the EU’s ‘Genocide Network’, which strives to prevent heinous crimes so the EU is not a haven for perpetrators.

Poland is a supporter of Universal Jurisdiction and believes it provides global justice. Poland believes in the principle of complementarity and holds that Universal Jurisdiction should only be applied when a state is unwilling to punish the crime. Domestic courts have priority. Professor Przemyslaw Saganek notes that it is not harmful for different countries to have different approaches to their scope of jurisdiction. Universal Jurisdiction should also be used justly and should not be used as an attack against another nation; prosecutors must respect the jurisdiction of other states. However, countries must adopt new laws to make the process of prosecution easier given that gathering evidence from war/international crimes is difficult. Countries must define core international crimes and incorporate them into national law, increase international crime units to deal with such crimes and allocate human and financial resources to assist in prosecution. Decreasing the uncertainty as to when punishing international crimes is acceptable will help mitigate the abuse of universal jurisdiction. Cooperation among states must be increased, and support must be given to the ICC as Universal Jurisdiction should be used in moderation. Poland is open to increasing the clarity of universal jurisdiction and hopes to increase state cooperation and understanding in terms of maintaining justice around the world.

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