The Washington Post looks at Spain's National Court justices, who seek to hold the United States and other nations accountable for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, wherever they have occured, based on the legal principle of universal jurisdiction:
Judges at Spain's National Court, acting on complaints filed by human rights groups, are pursuing 16 international investigations into suspected cases of torture, genocide and crimes against humanity, according to prosecutors. Among them are two probes of Bush administration officials for allegedly approving the use of torture on terrorism suspects, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The judges have opened the cases by invoking a legal principle known as universal jurisdiction, which under Spanish law gives them the right to investigate serious human rights crimes anywhere in the world, even if there is no Spanish connection.
... Carlos Slepoy, a Spanish-Argentine lawyer who helped pursue Scilingo, said the universal-jurisdiction cases have valuable secondary effects. Officials targeted by Spanish judges need to be careful about where they travel; Spanish arrest warrants are generally enforced throughout Europe but also sometimes in Mexico and other countries.
...Other advocates, however, point out that Israel and the United States have embraced the principle of universal jurisdiction when it suits them.
In 1960, Israeli agents kidnapped Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and tried him in Israel; he was convicted and executed.
More recently, the U.S. Department of Justice has supported efforts to have Spain pursue investigations against two alleged Nazi concentration camp guards living in the United States. The Justice Department lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute the men for crimes committed decades ago in Europe but would like to deport them to Spain to stand trial there.
Canada Convicts Rwandan War Criminal
Earlier this week, on May 22, 2009, a 42 year-old Rwandan man was convicted in the Quebec Superior Court on seven counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Canada's first prosecution under the 2000 Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
Canadian Press reported on the conviction:
Sections 6 and 9 of the federal Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act (excerpted below) grant jurisdiction to Canadian courts over war crimes and related offences committed outside Canada including crimes involving torture and conspiracy to commit to torture: