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The arrogance of universal jurisdiction, cont'd

The New York Times is editorially upset, and the WSJ glad, that loose-cannon Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, known for his prosecutions of world figures under "universal jurisdiction", may finally be running into effective resistance. Though the Times does not spell it out, the implication of its position is that amnesties over past governmental misconduct, no matter how consciously arrived at by a fully democratic successor state after due deliberation, can simply be declared null and void and disregarded under the higher international law. I wonder whether the Times will continue to assert this position if some equivalent of Judge Garzon decides to disregard the widespread Eastern European amnesties over Soviet-era misconduct and orders the arrest of ex-Communist officials as they visit Florida or Utah.

Meanwhile, international law action against the Pope "looks like it will happen," according to Julian Ku at Opinio Juris:

It looks like the focus will be on breaking down the Pope's head-of-state immunity defense, rather than trying to fit the sex abuse into the category of crimes against humanity. I think even this argument is very shaky, and wouldn't fly in the U.S. because courts would give absolute deference to the executive branch's decision to recognize the Vatican as a state, and the Pope as the head of state. But these UK lawyers are serious, they have real money behind them, so legal action will likely happen. Will the Pope take the chance and visit anyway?

(& welcome Jonathan Adler/Volokh, Elie Mystal/Above the Law readers)

More: Eric Posner at the WSJ (sub-only) thinks the Garzon indictment may spell the beginning of the end for universal jurisdiction. Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris responds.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.