Discussion Event Series on Universal Jurisdiction

The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) joined with the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations to co-organize a series of two discussion events at the headquarters of the United Nations in May of 2018 on the topic of Universal Jurisdiction. These events were held to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the United Nation’s International Law Commission (ILC) and the body’s first official visit to New York in over two decades.  By convening the two discussion-based informal side events during the ILC’s time in New York, the organizing parties sought to facilitate interaction on the topic of Universal Jurisdiction between members of the ILC and interested Member States and stakeholders in New York, especially members of the Sixth Committee.

As one of the main operating committees of the United Nations General Assembly, all UN Member States are invited to participate in the Sixth Committee, which acts as the primary forum for the consideration of relevant legal questions. As a part of its duties, in 2009, the Sixth Committee was charged by the General Assembly to consider “The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction” as an agenda item. For more background information on this, please click here.

The first event of the two-event series, “The Promise (and Pitfalls) of Universal Jurisdiction” took place on May 9. The primary goals of the lunchtime roundtable were to offer an academic overview on the concept of Universal Jurisdiction and to foster a discussion between the participating experts and event attendees. Sitting on the panel, which was moderated by Shara Duncan Villalobos, Minister Counsellor at the Costa Rican Permanent Mission and Chairperson of the Working Group on the Scope and application of the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, were Dr. Mariana Salazar Albornoz, Coordinator for International Public Law at the Office of Legal Counsel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Dr. Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and two members of the ILC, Patricia Galvão Teles and Dr. Charles C. Jalloh.

The second event, entitled “A Way Forward on Universal Jurisdiction,” was held one week later, on May 16. “A Way Forward…” capitalized on the broad scope of the first event in order to focus more specifically on the current state of considerations related to Universal Jurisdiction, both within the ILC and the Sixth Committee, with an eye towards facilitating future progress on the matter within the latter body. With Shara Duncan Villalobos returning to moderate, the panel was composed of Patricia Galvão Teles and Dr. Charles C. Jalloh, who were joined by their ILC colleagues  Dr. Dire Tladi, Dr. Pavel Šturma, Dr. Juan Manuel Gómez-Robledo, and Dr. Mahmoud Hmoud.

As planned, both of the events worked to provide a platform for the ILC to discuss considerations regarding the concept and implementation of Universal Jurisdiction. The interest, enthusiasm, and consistent attendance by members of the Sixth Committee and of the ILC colleagues allowed for a series of robust and future-facing exchanges. The Auschwitz Institute, for its part, is proud to support work on Universal Jurisdiction and similar tools for international justice that work to prevent  future mass atrocities.