Impunity in Syria & Universal Jurisdiction in Europe: Is a revival of the ‘global enforcer’ approach in order?
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As the Syrian conflict enters its tenth year, the chief perpetrators of atrocity crimes therein continue to enjoy virtually complete impunity. With no recourse to conventional international criminal justice mechanisms, universal jurisdiction in Europe, home to a large Syrian refugee population, is now in the spotlight. The conditions for its application, however, present clear obstacles to bringing within its scope Syrian regime actors not present in the forum. This article argues that the infamous ‘global enforcer’ approach to universal crimes demands reinstatement given the current state of affairs. Upon assessing the legislative universal jurisdiction models of a number of European states, it proceeds to discuss the legal basis and merits of adopting a progressive approach. The discussion also explores the shifts in the international legal landscape and the challenges in curbing the principle’s abuse. This article concludes that the ‘no safe haven’ model is effectively futile to the endeavour of holding Syrian government figures accountable. A model incorporating elements of a ‘global enforcer’ approach, conversely, appears the only viable way such individuals may be brought to justice.
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