Universal jurisdiction trial strategies: Focus on victims and witnesses

FIDH and REDRESS are publishing the report of the conference organised in November 2009 in Brussels, Belgium, on "Universal jurisdiction trial strategies: Focus on victims and witnesses".

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Redress Trust (REDRESS) have been working together on extraterritorial jurisdiction for about six years, with the main goal being to facilitate exchanges and foster a common approach between the different Member States of the European Union (EU). We have sought to bring together different national and international actors involved in this work, including lawyers, human rights organizations, investigators, prosecutors and EU officials, to encourage discussion of the central challenges relating to the exercise by Member States of extraterritorial jurisdiction, mutual cooperation and the challenges associated with the investigation and prosecution of such crimes. This conference is part of this overall programme of work.

The focus of this particular conference is on trial strategies and in many ways the topic attests to the progress that has been made over the past decade with extraterritorial jurisdiction cases.

We could never have had a conference ten years ago on trial strategies because the number of cases that had proceeded to the trial stage was just too small to analyse. We are very pleased that the situation has now evolved; now there is a rich practice to consider. Another emphasis of the conference is on the particular experience of victims and witnesses within these trials. We often hear that a particular individual has been arrested, or that a conviction has resulted, however we rarely consider the many individuals that are indelibly affected by extraterritorial proceedings. These individuals have suffered terrible crimes and have faced numerous hurdles in agreeing to testify, particularly when it is a foreign court and they may not speak the same language and where the culture is different. One of the goals of this conference is to shed light on the experiences of these victims and witnesses. What is perhaps most interesting is the range of people speaking and participating at this conference. We have prosecutors, lawyers, human rights activists, but most importantly we have quite a number of individuals, victims and witnesses who have direct experience of going through the trial process.

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