universal jurisdiction allows states or international organizations to claim criminal jurisdiction over an accused person regardless of where the alleged crime was committed, and regardless of the accused's nationality, country of residence, or any other relation with the prosecuting entity. crimes prosecuted under universal jurisdiction are considered crimes against all, too serious to tolerate jurisdictional arbitrage.
the concept of universal jurisdiction is therefore closely linked to the idea that some international norms are erga omnes, or owed to the entire world community, as well as the concept of jus cogens – that certain international law obligations are binding on all states.
according to amnesty international, a proponent of universal jurisdiction, certain crimes pose so serious a threat to the international community as a whole that states have a logical and moral duty to prosecute an individual responsible; therefore, no place should be a safe haven for those who have committed genocide, crimes against humanity, , war crimes, torture and forced disappearances.
opponents such as henry kissinger, who himself was called to give testimony about the us government's operation condor in a spanish court, argue that universal jurisdiction is a breach of each state's sovereignty: all states being equal in sovereignty, as affirmed by the united nations charter, "[w]idespread agreement that human rights violations and crimes against humanity must be prosecuted has hindered active consideration of the proper role of international courts. universal jurisdiction risks creating universal tyranny – that of judges." according to kissinger, as a practical matter, since any number of states could set up such universal jurisdiction tribunals, the process could quickly degenerate into politically driven show trials to attempt to place a quasi-judicial stamp on a state's enemies or opponents.
the united nations security council resolution 1674, adopted by the united nations security council on 28 april 2006, "reaffirm[ed] the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 world summit outcome document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity" and commits the security council to action to protect civilians in armed conflict.