By Graham Reynolds
Graham Reynolds is a student at Trinity College Dublin obtaining his Bachelor in Laws (LL.B.).
The British High Court of Justice’s recent ruling, which quashed the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to afford immunity to the Prince of Bahrain, is a welcome shift in the jurisprudence of “state immunity”. The ruling consequentially gives preference to the doctrine of “universal jurisdiction” within the adversarial relationship of state immunity and the former. It is felt that this ruling is reflective of the growing tide against arbitrary nature of some of the earliest doctrines of international law and their incompatibility with the influx in internationally recognized human rights.
As a starting point, it is necessary to distinguish that the lexicographic scope of “universal jurisdiction” refers solely to the competence of national judicial authorities, rather than any international judicial body.  It affords the state the ability to initiate criminal proceedings regardless of its sovereignty. This principle differs from the typical scope of international criminal proceedings as the nature of the act may in itself confer jurisdiction on any state, “without regard to where the crime was committed.”  Most contemporary authors recognize the existence of such a universality principle; the issue is therefore not its existence, but its content and scope. In theory, such widened scope of assertion provides for obvious possibilities of abuse and conflicting jurisdictional claim, yet as the Arrest Warrant case shows, the courts in the past had typically implemented a weakened construction of the principal, if any.