Universal Jurisdiction sounds like such a great idea (well, to some people, anyway). One moral nation, acting for a moral world, can bring war criminals to justice, even when crimes are committed outside of its territory. You can understand why in principle this could be a good idea, especially if said war criminals are powerful enough in their own countries as to be untouchable. The concept has been supported by those watchdogs of international morality, the ‘human rights’ NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, etc.
Anybody that lives in the real world must know that the facts of international politics make the just application of this principle impossible. It would seem to me that anyone who has finished elementary school and read at least one history book would understand this, but apparently the people at the NGOs either don’t meet this standard or are dishonest. Judging by what they did with the war in Gaza, I vote for the latter.
The fatal defect of this idea is that it is based on analogy to criminal law inside a jurisdiction, where there is, at least in the best circumstances, a disinterested justice system and rules of evidence and of judgment intended to ensure fairness. For example, in our courts hearsay is not admitted as evidence, and juries are selected in ways designed to produce impartiality. Even rules for determining probable cause for an arrest are stringent. But this is exactly what isn’t the case in the international arena.
Take, for example, the Goldstone report, based on (read: copied from) mendacious NGO reports, which is cited as ‘evidence’ for the prosecution of various Israeli officials in such countries as the UK and Spain. Palestinian ‘witnesses’ spoke to NGO representatives in the presence of Hamas operatives, their words were taken as fact and duly appeared in the Goldstone report.
Now add to this the fact that we do not live in a normal time, with its ‘normal’ collection of more or less violent international conflicts. Rather, we live at a time which is gripped by a hysterical anti-Zionism, a product of
- Muslim rejection of a Jewish state inside dar al-Islam,
- the vestiges of Soviet polarization of the Mideast conflict,
- Arab and Iranian use of conflict with Israel as a domestic issue,
- Western interest in sucking up to Mideast oil producers,
- the guilt-driven obsession of the Left to cleave to the oppressed of the third world,
- European guilt for the Holocaust,
- and a big helping of good old Jew hatred.
So the idea that Palestinian activists in the UK, for example, could file a complaint against Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli Foreign Minister, which could actually result in her arrest if she visits the UK, seems perfectly natural to the NGO-heads, British Muslims, and some feminists.
In attempt to turn the tables, some Israelis who were injured by Hamas rockets have petitioned Belgium to try Hamas leaders for their actions. I think that’s a really poor idea. The concept of universal jurisdiction is stupid whichever way it cuts.