The Sixth Committee is the primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the United Nations General Assembly. With the express purpose of developing progressive public international law, the Committee deals with a wide range of issues. At the Hofstra High School Model United Nations Conference, delegates to the Sixth Committee will deal with two extremely important and politically contentious issues.
First, delegates will engage the concept of universal jurisdiction, or the ability of a prosecutor or investigating judge of any state to investigate or prosecute persons for crimes committed outside a state’s territory which are not linked to that state by the nationality of the suspect or of the victim or by harm to the state’s own national interests. While used increasingly by members of the international system for war crimes, human rights abuses, and crimes against humanity, the concept of universal jurisdiction is controversial in many ways. Delegates will have to engage political, legal, moral questions to reach a resolution on the proper role of universal jurisdiction in the international system.
Second, delegates to the Sixth Committee will address the issue of torture. While outlawed by many international treaties and conventions, as well as domestic laws in many states, torture is still a wide-spread practice that runs counter to the liberal foundations of the United Nations system. Recent accusations of torture committed by the United States in its “war on terror” as well as high profile cases in Syria, Iran, China, and other states have reignited this critical debate. Delegates will have to engage the definitional, ethical, and political aspects of the torture debate with the goal of coming to a resolution that strengthens international conventions against torture.