Zambia has raised a red flag at the United Nations (UN) against the inconsistent and unpredictable manner in which Universal Jurisdiction is being applied which is causing friction among several Member States.
Zambia has said it is concerned with the application of Universal Jurisdiction especially when such a jurisdiction would appear to be motivated by political considerations.
Muki Phiri, Zambia First Secretary for Legal Affairs to the United Nations said Zambia’s concern is that there seem to be acts of abuse of the international legal process in which some countries have become the target of Universal Jurisdiction.
Mr Phiri has cautioned that the continuous selective prosecution of individuals for alleged Universal Jurisdiction crimes could be globally counter-productive with a potential to undermine the overall fight against impunity.
He told the UN that the question of whether sitting Heads of State and Government or high level officials should be subject to prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or special tribunals of other territories has remained unresolved partly due to the unpredictable manner the Universal Jurisdiction is being applied.
Delivering Zambia’s statement at the ongoing 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on the Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction, Mr Phiri stated the need to clearly establish the relationship between the Rome Statute and the application Universal Jurisdiction to escape abuse of the international law.
“The continuous selective prosecution of individuals for alleged Universal Jurisdiction crimes may prove counter-productive and has the potential to undermine the overall fight against impunity.
The question of whether sitting Heads of State and Government and high level officials may be subject to prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC) or special tribunals of other countries even when a country is not a State Party to the Rome Statute remain unresolved.
Zambia therefore is concerned with the inconsistent and unpredictable manner in which the Universal Jurisdiction has been applied which has caused friction among Member States,” Mr Phiri said.
Mr noted that it is universally agreed that, where specific criteria are satisfied in the application of Universal Jurisdiction, serious crimes clearly prohibited by international law should attract Universal Jurisdiction under customary international law.
He explained that Universal Jurisdiction seeks to promote global accountability by bringing perpetrators to justice as nations are under obligation to punish or repress serious violations to avoid respective territories from being used as de facto safe havens for perpetrators of crimes.
Mr Phri observed that Zambia is conscious that the international community cannot rely on mere goodwill of States to guarantee the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity hence the need for the universal application of international law.
He stated that crimes such as genocide, slavery and torture are of exceptional gravity and required appropriate legal framework that would compel Member States to either extradite or prosecute.
Mr Phiri said it should therefore not be mandatory that Member State should ensure the domestication of relevant treaties or enactment to the expansion of Universal Jurisdiction statutes.
He told the UN that Zambia has ratified and domesticated a number of Treaties such as the SADC Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance, the SADC Treaty of Extradition and the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crimes among others.