Delegate Name: Lillian Navin
Submitted To: Legal Committee
Subject: Principle of Universal Jurisdiction
Universal jurisdiction is a legal precedent that allows criminals to be prosecuted within a nation regardless of where their crime was originally committed. Switzerland believes that the use of universal jurisdiction should be limited to serious crimes, with other offenses punished under the “traditional” notion of jurisdiction. Universal jurisdiction must be a secondary jurisdiction in which no other court has stronger relations in order to balance state sovereignty while combating impunity. In order to clarify when universal jurisdiction can be invoked, Switzerland urges the UN to define when it is appropriate to use universal jurisdiction and when jurisdiction falls to the states.
Universal jurisdiction is an important instrument for combating impunity because it ensures that individuals responsible for the most serious crimes are brought to justice when no court has been seized under other principles of jurisdiction. It does, however, raise the question of what constitutes a severe offense. Switzerland believes it’s in the UN’s best interest to strengthen the definition of a “severe offense” to create a clear threshold for invoking universal jurisdiction. Switzerland calls on the United Nations to build a bridge between prior decisions and precedents in order to establish when universal jurisdiction must be invoked. Furthermore, Switzerland would like to emphasize the importance of greater interstate cooperation and the establishment of clear protocols for cases as well as establishing an order of jurisdiction to promote the collective efficacy of universal jurisdiction.
Switzerland encourages the development of multilateral treaties to facilitate cooperation in the enforcement of universal jurisdiction. A good resolution would set improved standards in which universal jurisdiction can be evoked. Switzerland also recognizes the central role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in prosecuting international crimes. Switzerland proposes the committee consider increased support for the ICC, financially and through the promotion of the Rome Statute as a means of clarifying the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Understanding universal jurisdiction through past precedent is crucial. On June 18, 2021, Alieu Kosiah, a former ULIMO leader, was convicted by Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court, making him the first Liberian to be convicted of war crimes in a Swiss civilian court for actions done during the initial civil war (1989-1996). In this instance, Switzerland’s use of universal jurisdiction provided a road to justice for victims who had no other choices. Switzerland firmly believes that universal jurisdiction is a critical means of combating impunity and assisting victims in obtaining justice. The current definition Switzerland uses for universal jurisdiction is outlined in its criminal code, which allows for the prosecution of particularly serious crimes such as crimes against minors, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Switzerland suggests implementing a similar definition that applies to all States in their implantation of universal jurisdiction. The Rome Statute establishes another crucial condition for universal jurisdiction. The ICC is given jurisdiction over four major crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
Universal jurisdiction is a critical step in combating impunity. Universal jurisdiction cases can be a lifeline for victims who have nowhere else to turn for justice. However, ambiguous conceptions of universal jurisdiction may lead to misapplication, abuse, or conflict. We must jointly enhance the global legal system by promoting international collaboration and improving legal standards. Switzerland is committed to actively contributing to the committee’s efforts and looks forward to a future in which justice is sought universally.
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