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Statement by Ms. Guo Xiaomei, the Counsellor and Legal Adviser of the Chinese Mission to the UN on Scope and Application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction at Sixth Committee of the 66th Session of the General Assembly

2011-10-12 04:09

Mr. Chairman,

Universal jurisdiction is a complex issue involving legal, political and diplomatic aspects. Clearly defining the definition, scope and application of universal jurisdiction bears on the healthy development of international legal order and international relations. In April 2010, China submitted written comments on this item to the GA , further elaborating the basic position of China and presenting our analysis regarding the definition of universal jurisdiction and the scope and conditions for its application. Here I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the basic views and position of China on this issue.

First, the so called “universal jurisdiction” is only an academic concept with no universally accepted precise definition. Based on the principle of sovereign equality, the international law recognizes the jurisdiction of a state within its own territory, as well as the jurisdictional immunities of a state in another state. In accordance with relevant rules of international law, states can exercise jurisdiction over such crimes as piracy that occurred on the high seas.

Secondly, in exercising jurisdiction, a state must respect the immunities another state enjoys under international law, including the immunities of the head of state and other officials, the immunities of diplomatic and consular personnel, as well as the immunities of state and their property under international law. The exercise of jurisdiction by a state under its domestic law must not compromise the relevant immunities and rights another state enjoys under international law.

Thirdly, concerning the principle of “extradite or prosecute” contained in some international treaties, China is of the opinion that this principle is a treaty obligation applicable only to the states parties to the treaties concerned. It cannot be generalized as “universal jurisdiction”.

Fourthly, the abuse of the so called “universal jurisdiction” constitutes a violation of international law. According to the regime of national responsibilities under international law, when domestic judicial organs of a state abuse the so called “universal jurisdiction” and violate the legitimate rights and interests enjoyed by another state under international law, that state should bear corresponding international responsibilities.

Mr. Chairman,

China supports the continued discussion of the item of universal jurisdiction by the Sixth Committee and the establishment of a working group to study the issue. We hope that a common understanding can be found through in-depth exchange of views. Pending such a common understanding, all states should refrain from exercising jurisdiction over another state in the name of the so-called universal jurisdiction, so as to avoid the negative effect on the international violations due to the abuse of universal jurisdiction.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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