15 October 2010

Statement by Mr. Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh

 Delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran 

before the Sixth Committee on Agenda item 86:

“The Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction”

(New York, 15 October 2010)


In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful


Madam Chairperson,

The delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran aligns itself with the statement delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. My delegation would like to make a few additional comments in its national capacity.


My delegation takes note of the Secretary-General on this agenda item, contained in document A/65/181.


Madam Chairperson,

The principle of universal jurisdiction by definition authorizes each and every State to take measures to prosecute the perpetrators of the gravest crimes of universal concern which hurt the conscience of humankind, regardless of the location of their commission or the nationality of the offender or that of the victim. The concept is not new. However, there has been an increasing tendency to resort more frequently to this doctrine, on the one hand, and to extend it to a relatively wide range of crimes, on the other. The main concern is that such application of this principle contravenes some fundamental principles of international law, in particular the principle of immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction, which emanates from the principle of sovereign equality of States. This has provoked continuing debate over a number of key issues, including the range and nature of international crimes to which universal jurisdiction may apply, the question of connecting link between the alleged crime or the suspect with the prosecuting State, and the presence of the alleged offender in the forum State.


According to international law, no State may exercise its criminal jurisdiction over the crimes committed in the territory of another State, unless there is a nexus with either of the offender or the victim, or the crime is universally recognized (like piracy) or it is established under a treaty, and the territorial State is not willing or able to carry out the prosecution. The principle of universal jurisdiction is, indeed, a legal basis envisaged in a number of international treaties which sanctions the exercise of criminal jurisdiction by any Member State over certain gravest international crimes, irrespective of their territorial and/or national links. Therefore, the scope of this jurisdiction as well as the conditions for its application shall be identified in accordance with the relevant provisions of each treaty. Furthermore, as some of the ICJ judges pointed out in Case Concerning the Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2000, “universal jurisdiction in absentia is unknown to international law”. It is noteworthy that in many countries, legislations which initially lacked this requirement were later amended in a way to ensure the presence of the accused in the forum State as a necessary condition for exercising criminal jurisdiction.


Madam Chairperson,

The Iranian legal system, like other countries, gives primary criminal jurisdiction to the territorial State. There is no express mention of the principle of universal jurisdiction in Iran’s criminal code. However, Article 8 of the Iranian Islamic Penal Code provides that Iranian courts shall exercise criminal jurisdiction over crimes which are punishable under international treaties and could be prosecuted wherever the alleged perpetrators are found, if the alleged offender is detained in Iran. Therefore, the Iranian legal system only recognizes the application of universal jurisdiction under two conditions: 1) the crimes should have been established under an international treaty to which Iran is party; 2) the alleged offender should be present in Iranian territory.


In closing, my delegation would like to state that the Islamic Republic of Iran favors the continuation of this debate in the Sixth Committee with a view to reaching a common understanding on different aspects of the principle of universal jurisdiction, in particular the conditions for its application and the nature of crimes which could be prosecuted under this jurisdiction.

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.  

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