Sweden just got tougher on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The Scandinavian country’s new Act on criminal responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes entered into force today.
It makes widespread or systematic attacks against civilians—including murder, sexual abuse and torture—crimes against humanity.
Along with the United Nations Association of Sweden, we welcomed the law as an important step in the global fight against impunity.
Aleksander Gabelic, president of the United Nations Association of Sweden:
“After more than ten years of preparation, the new Swedish legislation on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide is highly welcome as it brings national legislation into accordance with international law. Common crime definitions and harmonization of penalties and sentencing means more efficient jurisdiction.”
The law removes any statute of limitations for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity; provides for command responsibility; and authorizes Swedish courts to adjudicate cases concerning these crimes regardless where they have been committed or by whom—thus providing Sweden with universal jurisdiction.
It also provides clearer guidelines on the definition of war crimes and introduces a new provision on the crime of genocide in the penal code that better adheres to the UN Genocide Convention.
Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens, Europe regional coordinator of the Coalition for the ICC:
“We welcome this essential step in strengthening the ability to maintain international peace and security. In enacting this legislation, Sweden has reaffirmed its commitment to international justice—to holding perpetrators of horrific mass atrocities to account, to acknowledging the suffering of victims, and to helping to end cycles of violence—wherever it is needed.”
Having joined the ICC in June 2001, Sweden is a long-standing supporter of justice processes seeking to address these crimes on a global scale.
However, full and effective national legislation on the crimes over which the ICC has jurisdiction has been lacking until now.
Legislation that clearly defines genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity allows those crimes to be treated as such at the domestic level, so that if and when they occur, they can be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.