In recent years, it has become manifest how universal or extraterritorial jurisdiction have served as powerful tools of last resort in the fight against impunity against the gravest crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Convictions have been obtained connected to crimes committed, for example, in Syria, Afghanistan or Rwanda, for crimes dating as far back as 40 years. Intensifying efforts to work towards ending impunity for core international crimes is a theme for this year’s EU Day Against Impunity (EUDAI), which was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on 22 May.
In 2016, the first EUDAI was initiated with the aim of raising awareness of impunity related to core international crimes, which encompass the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Since then, the event has been held each May, and its core organisers this year were the Swedish Presidency of the Council, the European Commission, Eurojust and the Genocide Network. The event was live-streamed on the Eurojust YouTube Channel and is now available as a recording.
The Swedish Minister of Justice Mr Gunnar Strömmer stated:
The importance of this event is even more evident when we once again see a war taking place on the European continent. Sweden and the European Union condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Supporting efforts towards ensuring accountability for the crimes committed in Ukraine is also one of the priorities of the Swedish EU Presidency. But we should not lose sight of the fight against impunity also in other parts of the world.
The European Commissionner for Justice Mr Didier Reynders stated:
In the past years, I was in Ukraine on numerous occasions where I witnessed first-hand the appalling situation of the largest international armed conflict on the European continent since the Second World War. The reason we are gathered here today is that we are determined to reaffirm that the prosecution of international crimes remains at the forefront of the global struggle against impunity in these challenging times.
Eurojust President, Mr Ladislav Hamran, said during his intervention:
23 May marks the EU Day Against Impunity, but the quest for justice transcends national, continental and organisational borders. Core international crime investigations take place in a fragmented and complex operational landscape, and that is where Eurojust’s contribution fits. We unite expertise, we bring together evidence and we ensure cooperation among prosecutors and judges, so that justice can be delivered across borders.
The 8th EUDAI took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia as part of the MLA Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of the Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and other International Crimes. The aim of the Diplomatic Conference is to conduct formal negotiations that will result in the adoption of a new procedural multilateral treaty on mutual legal assistance and extradition in order to facilitate better practical cooperation between States investigating and prosecuting core international crimes.
The draft Convention also foresees that State parties should establish extraterritorial jurisdiction over these types of crimes when the alleged offender is present on the State party’s territory. More information on the use of universal jurisdiction in Member States is now also available in the leaflet “At a Glance: Universal Jurisdiction in EU Member States”, which was published by the Genociode Network on the occasion of the 8th EUDAI.
The event commenced with remarks from Mr Didier Reynders, Ms Dominika Švarc Pipan, the Minister of Justice of Slovenia, Mr Marko Štucin, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovenia, and a video address from Mr Gunnar Strömmer, the Minister of Justice of Sweden.
Following this, Mr Andriy Kostin, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, and Mr Milanko Kajganić, the Prosecutor General for Bosnia and Herzegovina, shared their reflections on challenges met when fighting impunity during an armed conflict and in the decades following the end of a conflict.
The second part of the event was dedicated to a panel discussion, bringing forward ways to step up the fight against impunity in the form of national, EU and global responses. The group of panellists included a variety of expert practitioners representing EU institutions, national and regional accountability actors, and civil society. Their discussion addressed various issues, such as the supportive role of the European Union and agencies such as Eurojust in seeking justice for core international crimes in a global context, cooperation tools which have been most helpful in recent cases and new tools in development, or the implementation of measures at a national level to bolster the fight against impunity. The Diplomatic Conference participants as well as those following online had the chance to ask questions during the Q&A session moderated by Ms Anna Carin Svensson, the Director General for International Affairs from the Ministry of Justice in Sweden.