Remarkably, the principle of universal jurisdiction is increasingly gaining traction in the international justice system as a key aspect of the prosecution of crime globally. Driven primarily by efforts to combat crime, this paper examined the relevance of universal jurisdiction in order to determine its adequacy as a system of international justice. Contextually, the principle of universal jurisdiction emerged as a supplemental component of the international justice system. This paper adopts the doctrinal approach by identifying and analyzing the relevant provisions and challenges of universal jurisdiction. It argues that if regular enforcement is a goal of the emerging international justice system, then universal jurisdiction will be an essential part of the system. The paper found out that the application of universal jurisdiction is saddled with challenges, not because of its reliance on national authorities to enforce international norms but due to the reluctance of those authorities to play this role. It concludes that universal jurisdiction will not become a reliable pillar of the international rule of law until these challenges are properly addressed.


Treaties and Legal Documents

Agreement on the application of Article 65 of the Convention on the Grant of European Patents (London Agreement), (opened for signature 17 October 2000, entered into force 1 May 2008).

Charter of the United Nations. 1 UNTS XVI (opened for signature 26 June 1945, entered into force 24 September 1973).

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 217 A (111), (adopted on 10 December 1984).

Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (adopted on 14 May 1954, entered into force 7 August 1956).

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (adopted 9 December 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/3/260 and entered into force 12 January,1951).

Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention). 75 UNTS 287 (adopted on 12 August 1949, entered into force on 21 October 1950).

International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of Crime of Apartheid (adopted on 30 November 1973, entered into force 18 July 1976).

International Conventions for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (adopted on 17 July 1998, entered into force 1 July, 2002).

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (adopted 18 July 1998, entered into force 1 July 2002).

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (adopted on 10 December 1948).

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. 1155 UNTS 331 (opened for signature 23 May 1969, entered into force 27 January 1980).

Court Decisions

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. No. IT-95-17/I-T, Prosecutor v. Furundzija, 1998.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. No. IT-94-1, Prijedor Dusko Tadic, 2000.

Domestic Court Decisions

Italian Court of Cessaiton, Ferrini v. Federal Republic of Germany, 128 ILR 659, (2004).

United Kingdom House of Lords, 2WLR827 (HL), (1999)

United Kingdom House of Lords, Jones v. Ministry of the Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia UKHL 26, (2006).

United Kingdom House of Lords, R v. Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No. 3), AC 147, (2000).

United States Court of Appeal, 6th Civ, Demanjuk v. Petrovsky, 31. 10. 1985, ILR 79, 546, (1985)

United States Supreme Court, United States v. Smith, 18 U.S. 5 Wheat. 153 153, (1820).

Books and Book Chapters

Cassese, Antonio. International Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Enache-Brown, Colleen and Ari Fried. “Universal Crime, Jurisdiction and Duty: The Obligation of Aut Dedere Aut Judicare in International Law,” in The Reality of International Law, Essay in Honour of Ian Brownlie, edited by G.S Goodwin-Gill & Stefan Talmon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999.

Grotius, Hugo. De Jure Belli ac Pacis. Paris, 1625.

Robinson, May. The Princeton Principles on Universal Jurisdiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Shearer, I.A. Extradition in International Law. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1971.


Akande, Dapo and Sangeetha Shah. “Immunities of State Officials, International Crimes, and Foreign Domestic Courts: A Rejoinder to Alexander Orakhelashvili.” European Journal of International Law 21 no.4, (2011): 815-852.

Bassiouni, M. Cherif. “International Crimes: Jus Cogens and Obligations in Erga Omnes.” Law of Contemporary Problems 59, no. 4 (1996): 63-74.

Philippe, Xavier. “The Principles of Universal Jurisdiction and Complementarity: How Do the Two Principles Intermesh?” International Review of the Red Cross 68, no. 862 (2006): 375-398.

Randall, K.C. “Universal Jurisdiction under International Law.” Texas Law Review 66, (1988): 785-788.

Steenberghe, Raphael V. “The Obligations to Extradite or Prosecute: Clarifying its Nature.” Journal of International Criminal Justice 9, (2011): 1089-1116.


Arimatsu, Louise. “Universal Jurisdiction for International Crimes: Africa's Hope for Justice”, Chatham House Briefing Paper IL BP 2010/01 April, (2010).

International Council on Human Rights Policy. “Thinking ahead on Universal Jurisdiction,” Report of a Meeting on 6-8 May 1999.