An Old Legal Doctrine That Puts War Criminals in the Reach of Justice

Universal jurisdiction, the idea that any nation’s courts can try people for atrocities committed anywhere, has gained as a tool of human rights lawyers battling impunity.

Why is universal jurisdiction needed?

Some countries lack adequate judicial systems to prosecute crimes of this magnitude committed on their own soil. And some nations simply don’t want to prosecute them — especially if their leaders or other powerful figures would be implicated.

That poses a threat to a core tenet of the rule of law everywhere, legal advocates say.


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