Faculty Notes

Prof. Julian Ku to Speak at London Conference

Julian Ku, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of International Programs

Professor Julian Ku will speak at a conference entitled “Universal Jurisdiction Ten Years After Pinochet: Ending Impunity or Decreasing Accountability?” hosted by The Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The conference takes place at The Royal Horseguards in London with a final public session in the House of Commons.

The Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs was established to revitalize public discourse concerning Israel and the Middle East by producing up-to-date materials explaining international law dimensions of current regional controversies, and to enrich the study of international law by reconsidering and re-analyzing the fundamental principles and applications of international law, particularly regarding issues of concern to Israel and the Middle East.

In 1998, a Spanish court issued an arrest warrant against former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet while he was in the United Kingdom for medical treatment. The House of Lords’ rejection of head of state immunity for Pinochet was seen at the time as a landmark in the acceptance of universal jurisdiction and the rejection of sovereign rights. In years since, courts in some Western nations have invoked concepts of universal jurisdiction to entertain suits against senior political figures such as Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Ariel Sharon and Henry Kissinger, as well as participants in the Rwandan genocide and Argentinean death squads. Many of these cases have been set aside due to diplomatic furor. Courts in Jordan have purported to have the authority to try Danish journalists for “insulting the Prophet.” This litigation has yet to be resolved.

Supporters have hailed the spread of trials and civil suits based upon universal jurisdiction as the end of impunity for gross violations of human rights and terrible crimes. Opponents have attacked the burgeoning universal jurisdiction for undermining state sovereignty, selective and politicized prosecution, undermining human rights and peace-making efforts, and failing to deter future crimes.

On the tenth anniversary of the Pinochet case, this conference will take stock of the record of universal jurisdiction, as well as the grounds for supporting and opposing it. In morning and afternoon sessions of the conference, leading academic experts will explore the law and theory of universal jurisdiction. A public closing panel of the conference will present the public with a critical look at the promise and perils of universal jurisdiction and a debate about its mixed record.

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