Alkarama Report: European States confronted with Impunity
In the face of ongoing impunity across the Arab World, Alkarama has published a detailed report on how to use universal jurisdiction in Europe to prosecute those responsible for torture, crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes.
The 24-page report, entitled "European States confronted with Impunity", summarizes the concept of universal jurisdiction as laid out in domestic and international law and analyses its implementation within individual European countries, in this case, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Universal jurisdiction was intended to fight the impunity of perpetrators of serious crimes and violations of human rights, according to international law, such as torture enforced disappearances, war crimes and genocide Impunity occurs when the perpetrators of such crimes are not punished or prosecuted. It is true that the national courts of the State in which the crimes were committed are best positioned to pursue and prosecute perpetrators. However, such lawsuits are not always effective, for example due to the lack of political will to punish the perpetrators of such crimes, the risk incurred by the victim in case he/ she files a complaint, corruption in the State's judiciary etc.
The concept of "universal jurisdiction" emerged following World War Two, but it has only truly been practiced in most European countries over the past two decades. This last decade has seen a noticeable increase in the number of complaints filed and sentences issued by courts using the principle of universal jurisdiction. This has been followed by various legislative measures in each country to regulate the practice of universal jurisdiction, either restricting certain elements or further re-inforcing its implementation.
Alkarama has extensive experience working with victims of torture and other human rights violations in the Arab World and chose to focus on submiting such cases to the United Nations human rights mechanisms due to the failure of domestic courts and regional mechanisms to effectively provide protection to the victims of serious human rights violations. The universal jurisdiction given to courts in European countries offers a further recourse for victims of these violations, allowing for them to submit complaints against those who violated their most basic rights regardless of their origins or where the violations took place. This jurisdiction can be used by the victims Alkarama defends, from the Arab region, but also by victims around the world.