Remarks by Steven Hill, Counselor, The Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction at a General Assembly Sixth Committee (Legal) Session

Steven Hill, Counselor
New York, NY
October 18, 2011


Thank you, Mr. Chairman,

We greatly appreciate the Sixth Committee’s continued interest in this important item.  We thank the Secretary-General for his report (A/66/93), which is an extremely useful reference on this topic.

The United States has already submitted information and views on universal jurisdiction; those views were included in the Secretary-General’s report last year (A/65/181.  In the interest of the efficiency of our discussions today, we will only highlight a few of these points.

We supported the decision to consider the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction in a working group because the topic is an important but complicated one.  As we look over the reports of the Secretary-General, it is clear that basic questions remain about universal jurisdiction and the views and practices of states related to the topic.  Some questions that might be examined by the working group include the following.

First is the question of definition:  what do we mean when we refer to universal jurisdiction?  For purposes of this discussion and as detailed in our submission, the United States has understood universal jurisdiction to include assertion of criminal jurisdiction by a State for certain grave offenses, where the only link to the particular crime is the presence in its territory of the alleged offender.  However, we know that others have somewhat different views, and we look forward to exploring that in the working group.

The second question relates to the appropriate scope of the principle.  That is to say, to what crimes do universal jurisdictions apply?

Other questions include the relationship between universal jurisdiction and treaty-based obligations, as well as the need to ensure that decisions to invoke it are undertaken in an appropriate manner, including in cases where there are other States that may exercise jurisdiction.

We look forward to exploring these issues in as practical a manner as possible.  We look forward to participating in the working group.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2011/250