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Article

31 Aug 2022

Author:
Karolina Bonde, PAX - Unpaid Debt

Will Supreme Court Limit Sweden’s Ability to Prosecute War Criminals?

Alex Schneiter has argued that the Swedish courts do not have jurisdiction over him. This claim has already been rejected by the District Court, the Svea Court of Appeal and the Prosecutor General of Sweden. Now, the Swedish Supreme Court has decided to clarify Sweden’s jurisdictional boundaries. If the Supreme Court agrees with Schneiter’s argument, it will not only be inconsistent with well-established international principles but also restrict Sweden’s ability to hold war criminals accountable and limit access to redress for victims of the most heinous crimes...

In Sweden, some crimes are considered so severe that Sweden always has jurisdiction over them, such as war crimes. These are subject to universal jurisdiction which means that they can be prosecuted regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators or victims and the place where the crimes were committed. However, Swedish courts are also limited by an internal rule (Chapter 2, Section 7 of the Criminal Code). This rule states that the jurisdiction of a Swedish court is limited by what follows from general international law...

The question that the Supreme Court has taken upon itself to clarify is what “follows from general international law” means. Does international law have to expressly permit the exercise of jurisdiction or is it enough that international law does not prohibit the exercise of jurisdiction? ...

A second question is whether Sweden can prosecute someone who is not present on its territory. The defence refers to the fact that Alex Schneiter is a citizen of Switzerland, does not reside in Sweden, and was not in Sweden when the charges were brought...

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