Seminar - The Legality and Scope of Universal Jurisdiction in Criminal Matters: Is there any Question to Answer?

Please join the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) for a discussion on universal jurisdiction in criminal matters. The content of this seminar is the result of an ongoing research project by Bernard Ntahiraja, Associate Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN).

Abstract of the Presentation:

Universal jurisdiction in criminal matters has been a hot topic for many decades already. In discussions on its legality and scope, waters are usually muddied by the inclusion of unrelated issues or by the use of inappropriate methodologies.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the legality and scope of universal jurisdiction, mainly by clarifying the concept and addressing the main misunderstandings characterising the discussions on its legality. The main claim is that objections to the legality and to the extended (unlimited) scope of universal jurisdiction in criminal matters are based on two confusions/conflations of notions. Firstly, this paper demonstrates that the so-called conflicts between the exercise of universal jurisdiction and general norms of international law are only imaginable in a framework that misrepresents/misunderstands the concept of jurisdiction itself by conflating the notions of jurisdiction to prescribe and jurisdiction to enforce.  Secondly, it argues that the view which limits the scope of universal jurisdiction to a few crimes fails to clearly distinguish states’ international duties and rights in criminal law matters.

In terms of methods, the paper takes the (traditional) view that states are allowed to do everything international law does not prohibit.

About the speaker

Bernard Ntahiraja is an Associate Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) and a research fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights of the University of Oslo. He has previously taught Criminal Law, Criminal Procedural Law and Human Rights Law at the University of Burundi and practiced as an Attorney in the Burundi Bar Association. He is the editor of ‘International Criminal Justice in Africa', an annual publication supported by the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation. He also acts as a reviewer for a number of academic journals, both in French and in English. His research interests are in the areas of International Criminal Law, Human Rights Law in the African context and (domestic) Criminal Law of Burundi.

Practical Information:

This seminar will be held as a hybrid event, meaning that it is possible to join in person or via Zoom. Please register using the link below and select your preferred attendance modality. If you choose to join us via Zoom, the link to the event and login details will be shared with registered participants well in advance.


Tags: NCHR, Human Rights, Universal Jurisdiction, Enforcement, Criminal law, Territoriality, Prescription, Lotus Case, Legality
Published Feb. 11, 2022 10:26 AM - Last modified Feb. 11, 2022 10:27 AM