Universal jurisdiction and populism : is it possible to secure a genuine application of the principle of universal jurisdiction in the face of rising 21st century populism?
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In an increasingly populist world there are certain developments occurring which on one hand enhance the need for an extraterritorial principle like universal jurisdiction, on the other hand, however, render states less willing to make use of it – or at least less willing to use it for genuine reasons. The cause for such increased need in view of rising populism is primarily two-fold: more hate crimes against parts of populations are likely to occur, mandated by immune state officials pursuing their populist or nationalist agenda, and, at the same time, a larger number of persons are likely to be left without state protection, which they would be able to receive if another state, or body with judicial authority, stepped in through asserting universal jurisdiction. Causes for the decreased willingness, on the other hand, are ever-quoted concepts of state sovereignty, territorial integrity, and immunity from foreign judicial criminal proceedings – hence, nationalist attitudes one can observe infiltrating government policies more and more since the beginning of this century. In this time of political change, seemingly in contradiction to global notions of human rights and international criminal law, thus blurring the rationales behind universal jurisdiction assertions more than before, it seems to be forgotten that core human rights are at stake and people left without justice. This thesis picks up on that controversy in developments and identifies whether there are possibilities to secure a genuine, non-abusive, application of the principle of universal jurisdiction – thus, whether one can continue to count on universal jurisdiction as safeguard for human rights, and how this approach would need to look like more specifically adapted to the current world order and changed mind-sets of numerous state heads.