The Lawfare Podcast: Universal Jurisdiction Cases

By Jen Patja Howell
Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 5:01 AM

Last month, a court in Germany convicted a senior Assad government official for a crime against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison for activities overseeing detention centers in Syria, where the government interrogated and tortured suspected antigovernment activists. The case was unique, not just for the profile of the defendant, but for the fact that the crime had no nexus to Germany. Instead, it's an example of what scholars call a universal jurisdiction case. In these cases, a country like Germany exercises criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes like war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. A collection of European countries, as well as Argentina, have incorporated provisions like this into their criminal code, and universal jurisdiction cases have served to bring justice for offenses committed in a range of conflicts across the world.

To talk through the most recent developments and the phenomenon of universal jurisdiction cases, Jacob Schulz sat down with Hayley Evans, a research fellow working on Afghanistan projects at the Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and Rule of Law.