Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

12 October 11

Universal jurisdiction: Statement by Ceta Noland, Legal adviser

Statement by Ms. Ceta Noland

Legal Adviser

Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

66th General Assembly – Sixth Committee Item 84:

The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction

New York, 12 October 2011


Mr. Chairman,

  1. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is grateful to the Secretary-General for his report on the scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction (A/66/93).
  2. The report, in connection with the 2010 report (A/65/181) on the subject, provides a useful overview of comments by Governments on their general application and understanding of the subject. In this respect, in the view of the Netherlands, universal jurisdiction is an important tool in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes under international law. Furthermore, universal jurisdiction contributes to implementing the principle of complementarity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
  3. In addition to providing information on domestic legal rules, applicable international treaties, and judicial practice, the reports of the Secretary-General furthermore provide a synopsis of issues raised by Governments for possible discussion. In this respect, the Netherlands could consider a continued process to study such issues. This, however, should be foremost an international law study of the topic, both in terms of substance and in terms of procedure.
  4. The Netherlands would like to reiterate its position as stated previously. As to substance, as suggested in the Secretary-General’s reports, while the issues for further research would need to be clarified further, they could include the following: whether the presence of an accused in the State exercising universal jurisdiction is required (as is the case under the Dutch International Crimes Act); and the relationship between universal jurisdiction and other bases of jurisdiction, including territoriality. At the same time, however, in the view of the Netherlands, international law and existing dispute settlement mechanisms adequately allow for the resolution of any disputes in connection with the exercise of universal jurisdiction. We, therefore, do not see merit in the proposed establishment of a new international regulatory body to that end.
  5. As to procedure, the Netherlands would consider that this legal topic ought to be discussed in a legal context in preparation for a future consideration in this forum. A discussion that would not be based on a full and proper understanding could have a negative impact on the important tool universal jurisdiction can be in the fight against impunity. It could be discussed whether, as suggested in the Secretary-General’s reports, it would be useful to request the International Law Commission to consider this topic further. In such a case, we would propose to reflect further on how to specify the request to the Commission and the framework for its work. An advantage may be that the Commission could conduct this work in conjunction with related topics under its consideration, such as “Obligation to extradite or prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare)” and “Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction”. We would also note that work on universal jurisdiction should take into consideration the work with respect to this topic already carried out by others, including the very relevant AU-EU Technical Ad Hoc Expert Group on the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.