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Statement by H.E. Ambassador LIU Zhenmin, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, at the Sixth Committee of the 64th Session of the UN General Assembly, on Item 84: The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction

2009-10-20 18:00

New York, 20 October 2009

Mr. Chairman,

The Chinese delegation has noted that the decision adopted by the African Union Summit in July 2008 condemned the abuse of the universal jurisdiction against African States. It pointed out that such an abuse would have a negative impact on the political, economic and social development of the States concerned as well as on their ability to conduct international relations. China would like to express its understanding of and sympathy for the legitimate concerns of African States. We hope that these concerns would be addressed in a timely and appropriate manner.

Mr. Chairman,

China is in favor of holding discussions at the GA on the issue of "The scope and application of the principle of universal jurisdiction" in order to prevent the abuse of so-called universal jurisdiction and to maintain international law and the stability of international order. We hope that through a thorough exchange of views among member States, we could arrive at a clear and common understanding on questions such as the definition of the concept of so-called universal jurisdiction, the legal basis in international law for exercising this jurisdiction, the criteria and limitations governing its application.

Mr. Chairman,

The so-called universal jurisdiction is only an academic concept and has not yet constituted international legal norm. Based on the principle of sovereign equality, it is well acknowledged in international law that a State could exercise jurisdiction within its own territory, and at the same time a State is entitled immunity from the jurisdiction of other States. Although, according to some international law regulations, States could exercise jurisdiction over piracy occurred on the high seas,those regulations do not apply to state-to-state relations. In the past few decades, the obligation to extradite or prosecute (aut dedere aut judicare) was introduced into a number of international conventions in order to enhance international cooperation on combating international crimes, however, the obligation to extradite or prosecute is not the so-called principle of universal jurisdiction.

I would like to take this opportunity to present some of our preliminary views on this question.

First, China has noticed that the obligation to extradite or prosecute is sometimes invoked as the basis for exercising universal jurisdiction. However, obligation to extradite or prosecute is not equivalent to universal jurisdiction. Obligation to extradite or prosecute is a treaty obligation which is applicable only among States parties to that treaty. When treaties provide for the obligation to extradite or prosecute, they always at the same time provide for specific conditions under which the obligation applies and different treaties provide for different conditions of its applicability.

Second, we would like to reiterate that States, when exercising their jurisdiction, should respect the immunity enjoyed by other States under international law, which includes the immunity from jurisdiction enjoyed by the head of State and other officials in accordance with international law, the immunity enjoyed by diplomatic and consular personnel based on international law or relevant international treaties, and the immunity enjoyed by the property of States under international law. States shall not, through exercising domestic jurisdiction, compromise the rights enjoyed by other States under international law.

Third, China agrees with the conclusion expressed in the decision of the African Union Summit that the abuse of so-called universal jurisdiction constitutes a breach of international law. Under the regime of State responsibility in international law, such abuse by domestic judicial organ of one State violates the legitimate rights of other States, and should entail corresponding international responsibility.

Mr. Chairman,

The so-called universal jurisdiction is a sensitive legal issue. States should avoid exercising this kind of jurisdiction over other States until we reach a common understanding on this concept and its application. At the same time, we support continuing the discussion by the GA of this topic. If after in-depth discussion, our conclusion is that the principle of universal jurisdiction has not been established in current concrete international law, we can cease this debate.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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