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Letter to the Editor: Reply from Legal Adviser, Amnesty International to Ryan Goodman on Survey of Universal Jurisdiction

[Editor's note: Ryan Goodman responds to this Letter to the Editor in a following post.]

Dear Editor,

I am writing with regard to the article “Counting Universal Jurisdiction States: What’s Wrong with Amnesty International’s Numbers,” by Ryan Goodman.

The updated preliminary survey by Amnesty International of legislation around the world was designed to assist the Sixth Committee in its annual discussions of universal jurisdiction. The basic two conclusions reached by that report are the following. Firstly, that 166 (approximately 86%) of the then 193 UN member states – the updated report was issued in October 2012 – have defined one or more crimes under international law (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture) as crimes in their national law and secondly, that that 147 (approximately 76.2%) out of 193 states have provided for universal jurisdiction over one or more of these crimes – and not 86% as wrongly stated by Ryan Goodman. Further, the survey recognizes a distinction on the one hand between enactment of legislation providing a state with universal jurisdiction over a crime under international law and, on the other, the exercise of that jurisdiction in practice. The 2012 survey noted that since the Second World War, prosecutions based on universal jurisdiction have been instituted (although not all have led to a final judgment) in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

These conclusions are based on an honest country-by-country analysis made by Amnesty International’s International Justice Team (see Annex II of the report) and are not ‘inflated’ and, in any event, Amnesty International stated that it would welcome receiving any corrections with respect to the legislation cited. Likewise, the above mentioned conclusions are not based on counting “[s]tates as having enacted universal jurisdiction if the state is a party to the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court or, more precisely, if the state has adopted a form of implementing legislation along with ratification of the treaty”. That would be a mistake. For example: Chad, Gabon, Maldivas, Nauru, and Zambia – which are states party to the Rome Statute are enlisted in the report as not providing for universal jurisdiction for any of the crimes defined in the Rome Statute. And Ireland and Liechtenstein – which have ratified the Rome Statute and enacted legislation implementing it into national law -, are also both considered as not providing for universal jurisdiction with regard to crimes against humanity and genocide. In sum, Amnesty International considers that the domestic law in these countries has the effect of conferring universal jurisdiction over crimes defined in, for example, the Rome Statute. Therefore Amnesty International are not basing the claim that such countries have universal jurisdiction on the fact of their ratification of the Rome Statute alone but rather on domestic legislation that enacts universal jurisdiction for all crimes in treaties (including for example the Rome Statute) that they have ratified.

Amnesty International has received no responses offering corrections to any of the country information presented in the report.

I would be grateful if you could please add this reply to Ryan Goodman’ article.

Yours sincerely,

Hugo Relva 
Legal Adviser
International Justice Team, Law and Policy Program

 

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