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National courts prosecute serious human rights violations committed anywhere in the world. As genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances are crimes under international law, all states should investigate and prosecute the crimes before their national courts.
Recognizing that impunity exists mainly when the national authorities of countries affected by the crimes fail to act, it is important that the national criminal and civil justice systems of all countries can step in to prosecute the crimes on behalf of the international community and award reparations to victims.
Amnesty International campaigns for all governments to empower their national courts to take on this important role by enacting and using legislation providing for universal jurisdiction. Such legislation should enable national authorities to investigate and prosecute any person suspected of the crimes, regardless of where the crime was committed or the nationality of the accused and the victim and to award reparations to victims and their families.
In doing so, governments will ensure that their countries cannot be used as safe havens by the worst criminals.
Amnesty International’s legal memorandum, Universal Jurisdiction: the duty of states to enact and implement legislation, documents more than 125 states that have universal jurisdiction over at least one of the crimes. The organization is campaigning for all states to enact universal jurisdiction legislation over all six crimes.
Since the end of the Second World War, more than 15 countries have exercised universal jurisdiction in investigations or prosecutions of persons suspected of crimes under international law, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and others, such as Mexico, have extradited persons to countries for prosecution based on universal jurisdiction.
1. - 4. Day
The first several days of the trial against Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni were filled with several motions issued by the defence. However, the indictment was also read and evidence viewed. The defence undertook some effort to stop the trial from taking off by applying for the dismissal of the Prosecutors as well as the judges. The defence argued that the Prosecution was not objective but agents of the Rwandan government. As the judges had decided not to allow opening statements (not necessary under German procedural code) they too were deemed biased by the Defence. The defence further argued that the Universal Jurisdiction Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch) was unconstitutional and would have to be submitted for review by the Constitutional Court. It also criticized that the names of witnesses were not read out openly in Court with the indictment. The defence also criticized that it had not received full insight into the Prosecutions files and applied to listen to the original recordings of the telephone and wire tapping. All motions were dismissed after Prosecution had chance to respond. Concerning the application on constitutional review the Court postponed a decision until after the evididence is heard completely. It did state however that it does not agree with the defence. On the 4. Day an expert on the FDLR and conflict situation in the DRC was heard. The political analyst of the Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Politik Trull described the evolution of the FDLR and its role in the DRC. He also described how the culture of violence is used to distort peace negotiations. In his view the FDLR has never seriously been interested in peace and has used violence against civilians to compensate its lack of political influence in Rwanda and DRC. Trull also stated that the FDLR is the most aggressive rebel military group in the region with up to 3000 fighters still active.