Jus Cogens and the “Classical Structure of International Law” Part II

February 5, 2011

Here is an interesting comment on the issue, directly rebutting Kontorovich and Art:

By extending the scope of its criminal law beyond its borders, the prescribing state condemns and prohibits conduct that takes place on the territory of another state and thus interferes with the non-intervention aspect of the principle of national sovereignty, which limits a state’s authority to regulate extraterritorial matters.  A state that claims that its criminal laws are applicable on foreign territory affects the rights and interests of the territorial state. n20 The exercise of prescriptive jurisdiction constitutes not a physical but a normative intervention on the other state’s territory.  As regards the lawfulness of extraterritorial prescriptive jurisdiction, two approaches can be distinguished under international law. According to the traditional approach as taken by the Permanent Court of International Justice in the famous 1927 Lotus case, states are free to extend the application of domestic criminal law over acts occurring abroad there exists a prohibitive rule to the contrary. According to the prevailing modern view, however, states are prohibited from legislating on extraterritorial criminal matters unless international law provides for an explicit permission.  The decisive difference between the two approaches is the burden of proof; according to the traditional view, the state that opposes another state’s jurisdictional assertion must prove the existence of a rule under international law prohibiting the assertion of criminal jurisdiction and according to the modern approach, by contrast, the state that asserts extraterritorial jurisdiction bears the burden of proof.

Julia Geneuss, Universal Jurisdiction Reloaded?: Fostering a Better Understanding of Universal Jurisdiction ICJ 7 5 (945), 1 November 2009.

And a bit more about the assertion of universal jurisdiction, not from the academic realm but from the practical realm of the international judiciary:

La législation belge qui institue la compétence universelle in absentia pour les violations graves du droit international humanitaire a consacré l’interprétation la plus extensive de cette compétence … L’innovation de la loi belge réside dans la possibilité de l’exercice de la compétence universelle en l’absence de tout lien de la Belgique avec l’objet de l’infraction, la personne de l’auteur présumé de l’infraction ou enfin le territoire pertinent. Mais après les tragiques événements survenus en Yougoslavie et au Rwanda, plusieurs Etats ont invoqué la compétence universelle pour engager des poursuites contre des auteurs présumés de crimes de droit humanitaire; cependant, à la différence du cas de M.Yerodia Ndombasi, les personnes impliquées avaient auparavant fait l’objet d’une procédure ou d’un acte d’arrestation, c’est-à-dire qu’un lien de connexion territoriale existait au préalable.

Roger O’Keefe, Universal Jurisdiction — Clarifying The Basic Concept,

ICJ 2.3(735). September 2004 (quoting Judge Ranjeva).

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