Thu 17 December 2009, The Guardian

Arrest warrants: Short arm of international law

If we accept the notion that law is meaningless without enforcement, we also have to buy into the principle that universal jurisdiction is an essential arm of international law. Without it, war crimes are commited with impunity. With the exception of the international criminal court, international law has no enforcement mechanism other than the right of national courts to prosecute those in their custody for atrocities committed abroad. The principle is neither new, nor is it being selectively applied, and in many instances that right is an obligation. The torture convention of 1984, ratified by 124 governments, requires states to prosecute suspected torturers for alleged crimes committed outside their jurisdiction, or to extradite them. The Geneva conventions of 1949, ratified by 189 countries, require each participating state to search for persons who have committed grave breaches, and to bring them before its own courts. Universal jurisdiction was the principle that allowed Israel to try Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961 .
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