Document Type

Book Review

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Some crimes are so odious that committing them makes one hostis generis humani (an enemy of all mankind). Intuitively, the idea of a universal enemy implies the possibility of universal criminal jurisdiction (UCJ). As Luc Reydams notes, the notion of UCJ originated in the 16th century with Covarruvias, although the idea is better known through Grotius's famous assertion that every state has jurisdiction over "gross violations of the law of nature and of nations, done to other states and subjects" (De Jure Belli ac Pacis, AC Campbell trans., II.20.VII). For many years piracy was the only recognized UCJ crime, not so much because of its moral awfulness, but because it was committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of all states; and the pirate was the original hostis generis humani. In the 20th century, a number of multilateral treaties established UCJ over other international crimes such as narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting, and aerial hijacking-crimes whose repression requires the efforts of many nations because they involve conduct that crosses borders. Typically, these treaties require parties (1) to enact domestic legislation criminalizing the conduct in question; (2) either to extradite suspects in their custody or prosecute them themselves (aut dedere aut prosequi); and (3) to establish criminal jurisdiction over the conduct regardless of where it is committed. It is the third requirement that creates UCJ - what Reydams calls 'cooperative' UCJ, because the aut dedere aut prosequi clause suggests prosecution under UCJ is meant only "to avoid an impasse which would otherwise result from the impossibility of extraditing a foreign suspect. The ensuing prosecution can be seen as a form of bilateral co-operation in penal criminal matters."


Copyright © 2005 Cambridge University Press;

Publication Citation

54 Int'l & Comp. L.Q. 804-806 (2005) (reviewing Luc Reydams, Universal Jurisdiciton: International and Municipal Legal Perspectives (2003))