From 26-28 October 2021, the Asia Justice Coalition (AJC) secretariat held its first in a series of convenings on universal jurisdiction. This closed-door workshop brought together a diverse group of experts who discussed the experience of civil society actors that have promoted or pursued universal jurisdiction matters. The convening included context case studies from South Africa, Syria, and Nepal and discipline case studies including open-source investigation and litigating torture.
The focus on civil society and universal jurisdiction arose from the Secretariat’s consideration1 of the various avenues towards justice and accountability for international crimes. Participants acknowledged that universal jurisdiction is only one tool to address international crimes—comprehensive justice and accountability require recourse to many different mechanisms. Nevertheless, civil society organizations (CSOs) play an important role in making universal jurisdiction available by amongst other things: collecting and maintaining information that may be used as evidence; assisting victims to access and understand proceedings; providing context and highlighting particular harms to be addressed by prosecuting authorities; pushing for necessary domestic legislative reform to permit universal jurisdiction for international crimes; and advocating for funding for international criminal investigation by domestic and international bodies.
This convening note is organized around the prominent themes that emerged during the discussions. The convening adhered to the Chatham House rule and the participants’ responses were non-attributable.