Law and politics of universal jurisdiction

Jana Panakova


Universal jurisdiction is where international law and international politics walk together on a thin line between their respective worlds. Yet, while much has been written about legal aspects of this controversial legal concept, its political implications remain largely under-researched. This article explores two cases where the interplay between law and politics has led to strikingly opposite results: the case of Spain and Augusto Pinochet, where a state has been shamed into compliance through the exercise of universal jurisdiction by another country ('Pinochet effect'); and the one of Belgium and United States, where a state has been shamed to change its laws through the exercise of universal jurisdiction by its own courts ('Rumsfeld effect'). This article identifies the key aspects of the two model cases by creating a kind of a check-list aiming to simplify the testing of the presence of the Pinochet and Rumsfeld effect in other cases based on universal jurisdiction. The article equally introduces a first testing of the presence of said effects on the prosecution of the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré.


universal jurisdiction; international criminal law

Full Text:


Copyright (c) 2011 Jana Panakova

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The Amsterdam Law Forum - ISSN 1876-8156 - is an open access initiative supported by the VU University Library.