Today, 8 April, the Palestinian
Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) presents its new report, ‘The Principle and Practice of Universal Jurisdiction: PCHR’s Work in the occupied Palestinian
territory
’. This detailed
and
comprehensive work on universal jurisdiction is the first one on
this topic in the Arab world.

 

 

PCHR releases this report in a timely
fashion, while the International Forum entitled “Justice: New Challenges – the
Right to an Effective Remedy before an Independent Tribunal” organized by FIDH
in Yerevan (Armenia) from 6th to 8th April 2010 is in course.

 

Raji Sourani, the Director of PCHR,
is among the list of key personalities and renowned national and international
experts invited to participate in the forum. The forum, which is bringing
together human rights defenders from the 155 FIDH member organisations
throughout the world along with judges of the European Court of Human Rights
the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and Nobel Peace Prize
Laureates, is a unique opportunity to present the work on universal
jurisdiction PCHR is doing with its international partners since many years.

 

The 184
page-long PCHR report focuses on the history, theory, and practice of universal
jurisdiction; a legal principle which holds that international crimes are of
such seriousness that they affect the international community as a whole. As
such, national courts – acting as agents of the international community – are
granted jurisdiction: they may investigate, try and prosecute those suspected
of committing international crimes.

 

In an
attempt to shield suspected war criminals from justice, Israel has consistently
proved itself unwilling to conduct genuine investigations and prosecutions. Not
once in the 42 year history of the occupation have senior Israeli officials
been investigated or prosecuted in accordance with the requirements of international
law. The Israeli investigative and legal systems serve to promote and protect a
culture of pervasive impunity. Given this reality, recourse must be had to
mechanisms of international justice. Victims’ legitimate rights to the equal
protection of the law and an effective judicial remedy must be upheld. Those
responsible for the most serious international crimes must be held to account.

 

In 2002,
PCHR first turned to the pursuit of universal jurisdiction. Since then, a
number of arrest warrants have been obtained, and PCHR – in cooperation with
partners such as Hickman & Rose (UK) and Abogado-Boye (Spain) – have
established an international network of committed lawyers. This report shares
some of this experience, in order to provide an insight into the practicalities
of universal jurisdiction.

 

High profile universal jurisdiction
cases, such as that of Pinochet, the Guatemalan Generals, Hissène Habré, and
PCHR’s own efforts against senior members of the Israeli military and political
establishment, have caught the attention of the media and State officials. The
horrific nature of international crimes, and the high political standing of
those accused, has given rise to significant controversy, and in some instances
an aggravation of intra-State tension. Those prosecuting universal jurisdiction
cases have been accused of manipulating international law for political
purposes. In order to refute these allegations, and to inform the debate, this
report has a twofold purpose. First, it addresses the principle of universal
jurisdiction itself, detailing its underlying motivation, its evolution, and
its application in the post-second world war period. It is intended that this
aspect of the booklet will explain the purpose and utility of universal jurisdiction,
illustrating why such cases are pursued. Second, the legal mechanisms available
to Palestinian victims of Israeli violations are examined. This aspect of the
booklet draws universal jurisdiction into the Palestinian context, examining
the available legal mechanisms in light of the requirements of international
law, and illustrating why the pursuit of universal jurisdiction is of such
fundamental necessity if victims’ rights are to be protected, and the rule of
law upheld.

 

‘The Principle and Practice of
Universal Jurisdiction’ concludes that universal jurisdiction is the only
available legal mechanism capable of ensuring Palestinian victims right to an
effective judicial remedy. In the broader context, universal jurisdiction is
also an essential tool in the fight against impunity. As long as individuals
and State are granted impunity, they will continue to violate international
law: civilians will continue to suffer the often horrific consequences.

 

Universal jurisdiction is presented
as stepping stone on the road to universal justice, whereby the protections of
international law may be extended to all individuals without discrimination.

 

An executive summary of the Report
is available here, while the full Report can be obtained here.

The Arabic version of the full
Report will also be available soon on PCHR website.

 

To receive a hard copy of the
report, contact

pchr@pchrgaza.org,
+(972) 8 2824776/2825893

For further information, contact:

Raji Sourani, Director PCHR

pchr@pchrgaza.org

 

Daragh Murray, International Legal Officer, PCHR

Daragh@pchrgaza.org,
+(353)851963490