Make Way for Justice #4: International momentum towards accountability

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Universal jurisdiction is here to stay. In their annual report Makewayforjustice#4, FIDH and its partners TRIAL International, ECCHR, REDRESS and FIBGAR illustrate the international momentum towards accountability through 58 cases, involving 126 suspects.

126 made accountable for the gravest crimes

Rarely has the fight against impunity been so dynamic. In 2017, countries in Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America have tightened the net on war criminals by resorting to universal jurisdiction. This principle enables States to prosecute alleged authors of international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity, regardless of their nationality or where the crime was committed. To overcome the specific challenges of universal jurisdiction, a wide number of States have set up specialized war crimes units (WCU). Last year alone, these units reportedly investigated, prosecuted or brought to justice 126 suspects of the gravest crimes. Many more investigations are ongoing.

“States who commit sufficient means to specialized units are leading the fight against impunity today by turning the word justice into action.”

Valerie Paulet, Trial Watch coordinator

Strengthening the means to fight against impunity

The Makewayforjustice#4 report also points to these achievements’ prerequisites. Strong WCUs have in common sufficient resources and staff and enjoy a high degree of autonomy as well as specialized and diversified State expertise from departments such as the police or immigration. However, the United Kingdom has for instance merged its WCU with counter-terrorism and the work of the Swiss WCU is weakened by having to share its resources with the mutual judicial assistance unit. Improved coherence and efficiency in investigating and bringing to justice universal jurisdiction cases are essential.

“Victims of the most serious crimes seeking to access justice in other countries may face many political and legal hurdles. But their mobilisation is critical for successfully bringing cases and ensuring that investigations advance. Today, universal jurisdiction is the only hope for justice for crimes committed in Syria.”

Karine Bonneau, Director of FIDH International Justice Desk
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