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

Country: South Africa
Delegate Name: Fletcher Fahling

Topic: 2023-The Principles of Universal Jurisdiction
Country: South Africa
Delegate Name: Fletcher Fahling
School: Mattawan High School

Universal jurisdiction, the idea that some crimes are so heinous as to have been committed against the whole world, allows for perpetrators of particularly severe crimes to be prosecuted in any country, not just the one the crime was committed in. This principle is a vital tool for ensuring no one escapes with impunity from large scale horrific crimes. This has allowed for 80+ international criminals to be convicted of their crimes and brought ot justice, included many of the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide and the Arab Spring. For many years, there has been concern within the international community on the lack of clarity in the law and implementation of universal jurisdiction and therefore the potentiality for it to be misused or abused. The law of universal jurisdiction has not yet been clearly codified by the UN in one place, leaving the scope, intention, and rules for implementation woefully underexplained. The implementation of universal jurisdiction relies almost entirely on individual countries incorporating the principle into their own domestic rule of law.The UN has been consistently discussing this issue in the sixth legal committee for over twenty years, with no real progress being made.

South Africa has prosecuted two international jurisdiction cases, of former Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana and of several Zimbabwean security officials, for their alleged crimes against humanity. South Africa is happy to assist with international law and justice, but with one of the highest crime rates in the world, its legal system is already strained, making it difficult to handle these cases. This, along with the lack of clarity around universal jurisdiction laws, raises concern as to how effectively this system is being implemented. While it has worked well in the past, it certainly can be improved in order to make it work closer to as it was intended, and continue seeking the ideal of justice with which it was established.

In the past, South Africa has supported universal jurisdiction wholly, while also supporting the addition of scaffolding to help countries with less robust legal systems and new guidelines to clarify the reach of universal jurisdiction and to prevent its misuse and politicization, and will continue to hold this viewpoint. South Africa supports the creation of a coalition of African nations to assist in international prosecution and universal jurisdiction cases, in order to lessen the burden on individual country’s overstrained legal systems. South Africa also supports the writing of a convention outlining the exact definition of universal jurisdiction- in what cases it should be used, how to prevent misuse, and how to support countries will less resources to prosecute.

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