Despite the patchy record of international accountability, universal jurisdiction offers a way of setting the wheel of international criminal justice in motion.When it comes to dealing with any international issue, a country can adopt one of the following two approaches: take a back seat and let the issue evolve on its own in an unpredictable trajectory or, act proactively to tackle it head on. The first approach leads to unwanted consequences, while the latter, although it initially requires more hard work, is more rewarding in the long term.
I mentioned this to His Excellency Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, when I met him in September 2020, to discuss Pakistan’s lawfare options in international law matters. I told the prime minister about an important lawfare vertical: the concept of “universal jurisdiction”.
I advised him that Pakistan should tap into the resources of international law, and invoke universal jurisdiction against Indian officials accused of committing international crimes in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
While I can’t be sure if Pakistan heeded my advice, an important international development – the equivalent of a legal tsunami for India – has taken place in the UK, which shows that the world is slowly but surely waking up to India’s atrocious crimes in Indian-administered Kashmir.
On January 20, a London-based law firm, Stoke White, filed an application with the UK Metropolitan Police for the investigation and arrest of India’s Army Chief Manoj Naravne, and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah for the torture, kidnapping, and killing of activists and civilians in India-administered Kashmir.
In a 40-page report titled “India’s War Crimes in Kashmir”, Stoke White seeks the commencement of legal proceedings against India’s Army Chief and Home Affairs Minister, on the basis of the principle of “universal jurisdiction”.
Stoke White has asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate the death of a minor who was illegally detained by Indian authorities, and the systematic torture of a human rights defender. The firm claims to have collected more than 2,000 testimonies on a range of abuses and violations of international and domestic laws.
Despite the patchy record of international accountability, universal jurisdiction offers a way of setting the wheel of international criminal justice in motion.