Universal Jurisdiction in Absentia


The issue of universal jurisdiction has become increasingly relevant in recent years as proceedings have been initiated in certain States against individuals such as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It remains unclear whether the concept of universal jurisdiction permits proceedings to be initiated against these individuals even though they are not present in the prosecuting State. This issue has received a great deal of media attention over the past year, in the wake of the Belgian Cour de Cassation’s ruling in September 2003 (overturning a decision by the Belgian Court of Appeal) that the assertion of universal jurisdiction “in absentia” is consistent with international law. In the present article, it is argued that the opposite position is in fact the correct one.


International Law

Date of this Version

June 2004