On October 16, 1998, London police, acting on Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón’s warrant, arrested former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for authorizing the killing, kidnapping and torture of Chilean and foreign nationals. Judge Garzón’s arrest warrant was based on the rarely invoked principle of universal jurisdiction. Universal jurisdiction empowers national courts to prosecute serious violations of international law “regardless of the location of the crime[s] or the nationality of the [actors] or the victim[s].” In light of the grave human rights abuses committed by the Syrian government during the Syrian Civil War, a conflict that has claimed almost 40,000 lives according to some estimates, several scholars have argued that universal jurisdiction should be invoked to try Syrian government officials, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While the principle of universal jurisdiction would seem to allow an American court to try Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for war crimes, Assad is an incumbent head of state however and is thus immune from criminal liability; furthermore, even if Assad were not immune from prosecution, unless some of his victims were US citizens or part of the US military, federal statutory law would not permit an American court to prosecute him.
| Posted by Munashe Magarira on Sun. March 24, 2013 11:11 PM
Categories: International Human Rights