Karake Et Al. and Universal Jurisdiction

Rwandan general, Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, is deputy commander of the joint United Nations/African Union “implementation” force in Darfur, UNAMID. General Karake (there is some uncertainty in the media as to how his name is properly to be given; I am following the Rwandan government’s use of “Karake.”) was also the commander of Rwandan troops during the reprisal killings of Hutus by the Tutsis. In February a Spanish judge of the National Court indicted Karake, along with 39 other Rwandans including president Paul Kagame, with crimes against human rights, claiming “universal jurisdiction” to do so. As a result there was some pressure to have Karake removed from command of the UNAMID force, which in turn led Rwanda, which hotly denied any wrongdoing by Karake, to threaten to withdraw its troops and potentially scuttle the mission. Last Friday U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated a willingness to retain Karake in his present post, however.

This contretemps led David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, conservative lawyers in Washington D.C. and frequent commentators in American newspapers, to write a piece for today’s L.A. Times on universal jurisdiction and, in their words, the “worldwide judicial anarchy” it threatens.

Other instances of states’ courts making claims of universal jurisdiction include, famously, Spanish charges against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and potential charges against Henry Kissinger and Ariel Sharon.

Unsurprisingly, Kissinger has written an essay, “The Pitfalls of Universal Jurisdiction: Risking Judicial Tryanny,” published in the summer 2001 volume of Foreign Affairs, arguing against the doctrine; he was answered by Kenneth Roth in the Fall volume of the same journal (“The Case for Universal Jurisdiction“).

Those interested in learning more about universal jurisdiction (as used in this international law sense) will find a large number of resources available, including these sources available online:

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