Universal Jurisdiction and Drug Trafficking: A Tool for Fighting One of the World's Most Pervasive Problems


Universal jurisdiction allows any state to exercise jurisdiction to prosecute a suspect wherever he is found, regardless of the location of his crimes, his nationality, or any other contacts with the prosecuting state. This article proposes that the United States and the international community should take two major steps toward embracing universal jurisdiction as a possible means of combatting drug trafficking. First, states should adopt an additional protocol to the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances clearly establishing universal jurisdiction for drug trafficking and thereby filling jurisdictional gaps in existing treaty law. Second, states, and the United States in particular, should amend their municipal legislation on drug trafficking to reflect an acceptance of universal jurisdiction. By embracing universal jurisdiction, states will have a useful tool to help ensure that suspected traffickers do not operate with impunity in countries that are either unable or unwilling to prosecute them.


Comparative and Foreign Law | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | International Law | Jurisdiction

Date of this Version

September 2003