On 29 November 1999, the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) of Dusseldorf condemned Maksim Sokolovic to 9 years in prison for aiding and abetting the crime of genocide and for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Sokolovic appealed against the judgment, claiming that the court of Dusseldorf had no jurisdiction over his case. With ruling of 21 February 2001 (3StR 372/00), the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) rejected the arguments of the accused. It decided that, according to the national rules of jurisdiction, the German tribunal was correct in trying the case and in defining the German law as applicable, since the abovementioned crimes fall under the principle of universal jurisdiction. As a consequence, a foreigner could be tried by a German court for crimes committed on foreign territory.
One further question was however left unanswered by the the Federal Supreme Court: Whether the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction required a "close connection" between defendant and prosecuting state. The Higher Regional Court had considered such a connection necessary and had found the long residence of the accused in Germany sufficient to fulfil this requirement.
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.