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As recommended by Human Rights Watch, Germany’s Ministry of Justice has created three dedicated positions in the general prosecutor’s office to investigate cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes that fall under Germany’s universal jurisdiction law. In addition, the Federal Criminal Police will establish a specialized war crimes unit with seven investigators working on international crimes. While Germany has had one of the most advanced universal jurisdiction laws on the books since 2002, those laws have so far led to few investigations and no prosecutions. Human Rights Watch has pressed the German government to put its law into practice. We testified in favor of increasing the investigation capacity under the universal jurisdiction laws at a parliamentary hearing that was held at our request. Human Rights Watch has followed developments on universal jurisdiction in Europe for several years. In 2006, we published “Universal Jurisdiction in Europe: The State of the Art,” which examines universal jurisdiction laws and practices in eight countries. We recommended then that those countries, Germany among them, create adequately resourced and staffed units for investigating and prosecuting universal jurisdiction cases. We are pleased that Germany has taken these significant steps in operationalizing its commitment to justice for the world’s worst human rights crimes.

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