Alicja Polakiewicz, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

The Politics of International Criminal Law Enforcement on the National Level: Examining Universal Jurisdiction Application in Germany, France, and Poland

Universal jurisdiction is a principle of criminal law which enables states to prosecute specific crimes, such as genocide, aircraft hijacking, or torture, in their national courts. In practice, universal jurisdiction has been rarely applied. This is unsurprising, because the exercise of universal jurisdiction entails political risks, economic costs, legal complications, and resource strains. In light of these strong disincentives, my PhD will investigate why states resort to universal jurisdiction at all. Academic discourse on universal jurisdiction has so far evolved mainly around questions other than the enforcement of the principle. But even where the principle’s application has been addressed, the explanatory factors discussed remain inconclusive. Addressing this omission, and building especially on the work of political scientists, my PhD research will entail a comparative study, in which I will juxtapose the use of universal jurisdiction in Germany, France, and Poland. I will employ process tracing and within as well as across case comparisons to develop, in an iterative process, a middle range theory. My ambition is to explain, how and why states arrive at exercising universal jurisdiction. Thereby I want to contribute to the wider political science debate on international criminal law enforcement, human rights violation prosecution, and the interplay between national and international legal regimes.