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Head of State Immunity and International Crimes

Mannerström, Magnus LU (2015) JUR091 20151
Department of Law
Abstract
The aim of this thesis is to explore the status of the immunity afforded to heads of state for serious international crimes. The central question asked is whether heads of state at the present time can commit international crimes and still be granted impunity.

The concept of head of state immunity developed from immunity afforded to states and is based on the principles of state-sovereignty and equality between states. Until the middle of last century such immunity was absolute. Thereafter, the rationale for the immunity shifted to a theory of functional necessity and was instead determined in accordance with diplomatic immunity. Diplomats are entitled to immunity for acts while in office, but can be held responsible in certain... (More)
The aim of this thesis is to explore the status of the immunity afforded to heads of state for serious international crimes. The central question asked is whether heads of state at the present time can commit international crimes and still be granted impunity.

The concept of head of state immunity developed from immunity afforded to states and is based on the principles of state-sovereignty and equality between states. Until the middle of last century such immunity was absolute. Thereafter, the rationale for the immunity shifted to a theory of functional necessity and was instead determined in accordance with diplomatic immunity. Diplomats are entitled to immunity for acts while in office, but can be held responsible in certain circumstances after leaving office. This distinction between immunities afforded to serving or former state officials have resulted in two types of immunity; personal immunity and functional immunity. The former is title-based and attached to the official position. The latter is conduct-based and attached to the act performed and therefore becomes relevant only after the state official leaves office. The extent of these immunities with regards to heads of state is determined by customary international law.

Customary international law provides that serving heads of state enjoy personal immunity before national courts of other states for all acts. The concept of functional immunity afforded to former heads of state is more complex. It is clear that functional immunity does not provide protection for private acts, but serious international crimes are not private acts. Despite international practice indicating the contrary, it is held in this thesis that the functional immunity of former heads of state is intact, unless removed in case of an exception to the customary rule providing immunity. Such an exception might be that the home state of the head of state waives the immunity or that it enters into an international agreement which removes the immunity between the contracting states. The conclusion is that foreign domestic courts provide limited possibilities to fight impunity.

International ad hoc tribunals and hybrid courts are more effective for the prosecution of heads of state for serious international crimes. In case the tribunal or court is established by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the immunity afforded to both serving and former heads of state is removed. In case the court or tribunal is established by an agreement, without the powers of the UN Security Council, the functional immunity of a former head of state can still be removed when the statute of the court contain a clause establishing the irrelevance of official capacity. In this thesis it is held that the personal immunity provides protection for serving heads of state despite such a clause, although there is case law suggesting the contrary. Because of this, and since the jurisdiction of ad hoc tribunals and hybrid courts are often limited to specific regions and to specific periods of time, they are not available as a universal solution to end impunity.

The ICC is based on a treaty, the Rome Statute, removing the immunity of both serving and former heads of state of the state parties. Also, the Security Council can refer situations to the ICC while acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Under such a referral, the ICC has universal jurisdiction and the immunity of both serving and former heads of state of non-party states is also removed. Under the principle of complementarity, a case is only admissible to the ICC if a state is unwilling or unable to genuinely investigate or prosecute the responsible head of state. Also, a Security Council referral is only possible in case all of the five permanent members abstain from their veto powers. This limits the power and effectiveness of the ICC in the fight against impunity.

The conclusion of this thesis is that present heads of state in many circumstances still can commit serious international crimes and invoke immunity. But important steps against impunity have been taken in recent years, signaling that there might be an end to impunity in the future. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Syftet med uppsatsen är att utforska och behandla statschefers rätt till immunitet vid grova folkrättsbrott. Den centrala frågan för uppsatsen är om statschefer idag kan begå brott mot folkrätten och ändå beviljas straffrihet.

Immunitet för statschefer har utvecklats ur immuniteten för stater, som är baserad på att varje stat är suverän och likställd med andra stater. Fram till mitten av nittonhundratalet var immuniteten för statschefer absolut. Efter den tidpunkten förändrades staters behov för immunitet och immuniteten för statschefer motiverades istället utfrån en teori om ett funktionellt behov, med modellen för diplomatisk immunitet som utgångspunkt. Diplomatiska företrädare åtnjuter immunitet i den mottagande staten, men kan under... (More)
Syftet med uppsatsen är att utforska och behandla statschefers rätt till immunitet vid grova folkrättsbrott. Den centrala frågan för uppsatsen är om statschefer idag kan begå brott mot folkrätten och ändå beviljas straffrihet.

Immunitet för statschefer har utvecklats ur immuniteten för stater, som är baserad på att varje stat är suverän och likställd med andra stater. Fram till mitten av nittonhundratalet var immuniteten för statschefer absolut. Efter den tidpunkten förändrades staters behov för immunitet och immuniteten för statschefer motiverades istället utfrån en teori om ett funktionellt behov, med modellen för diplomatisk immunitet som utgångspunkt. Diplomatiska företrädare åtnjuter immunitet i den mottagande staten, men kan under vissa förutsättningar hållas ansvariga för sina handlingar när de avslutat sin tjänstgöring. Denna distinktion mellan immunitet som åtnjuts av sittande och före detta representanter för staten har resulterat i två skilda typer av immunitet; personlig immunitet och funktionell immunitet. Den förra är titelbaserad och knuten till den officiella positionen inom staten. Den senare är handlingsbaserad och knuten till själva handlingen och dess officiella karaktär, och blir därför relevant först efter avslutad tjänstgöring. Omfattningen av dessa två slags immuniteter bestäms utifrån internationell sedvanerätt.

Internationell sedvanerätt visar att sittande statschefer är berättigade till personlig immunitet för alla handlingar, både officiella och privata, inför andra staters nationella domstolar. Situationen för funktionell immunitet, som åtnjuts av före detta statschefer, är mer komplex och ger skydd för officiella handlingar som kan tillskrivas staten, men inte för privata handlingar. Grova folkrättsbrott är inte att se som privata handlingar. Trots viss rättspraxis som indikerar motsatsen argumenteras det i denna uppsats för att den funktionella immunitet som åtnjuts av före detta statschefer är intakt inför andra staters nationella domstolar, om den inte undanröjs på grund av ett undantag till den sedvanerättsliga regel som erbjuder immunitet. Ett sådant undantag kan exempelvis vara att hemstaten upphäver immuniteten eller att staten ingått ett internationellt avtal som underkänner möjligheten att hävda immunitet. Slutsatsen är att andra staters nationella domstolar ger begränsade möjligheter att bekämpa straffrihet för statschefer.

Internationella ad hoc-tribunaler och hybrid-domstolar har visat sig mer effektiva för åtal av statschefer vid grova folkrättsbrott. Om tribunalen eller domstolen upprättats av FN:s säkerhetsråd i enlighet med kapitel VII i FN-Stadgan i syfte att bevara internationell fred och säkerhet avlägsnas möjligheten att invända immunitet för både sittande och före detta statschefer. Om domstolen istället har upprättats genom ett internationellt avtal, utan befogenhet från FN:s säkerhetsråd, kan före detta statschefers rätt att invända funktionell immunitet fortfarande nekas om domstolens stadga innehåller en klausul som fastslår att den åtalades officiella status saknar betydelse. I denna uppsats framförs att personlig immunitet ger skydd för sittande statschefer trots en sådan klausul, även om det finns rättspraxis som tyder på motsatsen. I tillägg, eftersom ad hoc-tribunalers och hybrid-domstolars jurisdiktion normalt är begränsad till vissa regioner och vissa tidsperioder, är inte dessa tillgängliga som en universell lösning för att uppnå ett slut på straffriheten för statschefer.

Den internationella brottsmålsdomstolen (ICC) etablerades genom Romstadgan efter ratificering av 60 stater. Stadgan nekar rätt till immunitet för både sittande och före detta statschefer för de stater som ratificerat stadgan. Dessutom kan FN:s säkerhetsråd, under FN-stadgans kapitel VII, hänskjuta situationer till ICC om de utgör ett hot mot internationell fred och säkerhet. Därigenom får ICC universell jurisdiktion och rätten till immunitet för både sittande och före detta statschefer avlägsnas även för stater som inte ratificerat Romstadgan. I enlighet med komplementaritetsprincipen har ICC möjlighet att agera endast när en stat är ovillig eller oförmögen att utreda och lagföra den ansvariga personen. I tillägg är en hänskjutning från FN:s säkerhetsråd endast möjlig om alla de fem permanenta medlemmarna avstår från sin vetorätt. Dessa faktorer begränsar ICC’s effektivitet och möjligheter i kampen mot straffrihet för statschefer som gjort sig skyldiga till folkrättsbrott.

Slutsatsen i denna uppsats är att statschefer idag i många fall fortfarande kan begår grova folkrättsbrott och ändå åberopa immunitet. Men viktiga steg mot straffrihet för statschefer har ändå tagits under senare år, vilket indikerar att det någon gång i framtiden möjligen kan bli ett slut på straffrihet för statschefer vid grova brott mot folkrätten. (Less)
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author
Mannerström, Magnus LU
supervisor
organization
course
JUR091 20151
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Folkrätt, Public International Law
language
English
id
5435470
date added to LUP
2015-06-01 16:13:21
date last changed
2015-06-11 17:32:34
@misc{5435470,
  abstract     = {The aim of this thesis is to explore the status of the immunity afforded to heads of state for serious international crimes. The central question asked is whether heads of state at the present time can commit international crimes and still be granted impunity.

The concept of head of state immunity developed from immunity afforded to states and is based on the principles of state-sovereignty and equality between states. Until the middle of last century such immunity was absolute. Thereafter, the rationale for the immunity shifted to a theory of functional necessity and was instead determined in accordance with diplomatic immunity. Diplomats are entitled to immunity for acts while in office, but can be held responsible in certain circumstances after leaving office. This distinction between immunities afforded to serving or former state officials have resulted in two types of immunity; personal immunity and functional immunity. The former is title-based and attached to the official position. The latter is conduct-based and attached to the act performed and therefore becomes relevant only after the state official leaves office. The extent of these immunities with regards to heads of state is determined by customary international law.

Customary international law provides that serving heads of state enjoy personal immunity before national courts of other states for all acts. The concept of functional immunity afforded to former heads of state is more complex. It is clear that functional immunity does not provide protection for private acts, but serious international crimes are not private acts. Despite international practice indicating the contrary, it is held in this thesis that the functional immunity of former heads of state is intact, unless removed in case of an exception to the customary rule providing immunity. Such an exception might be that the home state of the head of state waives the immunity or that it enters into an international agreement which removes the immunity between the contracting states. The conclusion is that foreign domestic courts provide limited possibilities to fight impunity.

International ad hoc tribunals and hybrid courts are more effective for the prosecution of heads of state for serious international crimes. In case the tribunal or court is established by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the immunity afforded to both serving and former heads of state is removed. In case the court or tribunal is established by an agreement, without the powers of the UN Security Council, the functional immunity of a former head of state can still be removed when the statute of the court contain a clause establishing the irrelevance of official capacity. In this thesis it is held that the personal immunity provides protection for serving heads of state despite such a clause, although there is case law suggesting the contrary. Because of this, and since the jurisdiction of ad hoc tribunals and hybrid courts are often limited to specific regions and to specific periods of time, they are not available as a universal solution to end impunity.

The ICC is based on a treaty, the Rome Statute, removing the immunity of both serving and former heads of state of the state parties. Also, the Security Council can refer situations to the ICC while acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Under such a referral, the ICC has universal jurisdiction and the immunity of both serving and former heads of state of non-party states is also removed. Under the principle of complementarity, a case is only admissible to the ICC if a state is unwilling or unable to genuinely investigate or prosecute the responsible head of state. Also, a Security Council referral is only possible in case all of the five permanent members abstain from their veto powers. This limits the power and effectiveness of the ICC in the fight against impunity.

The conclusion of this thesis is that present heads of state in many circumstances still can commit serious international crimes and invoke immunity. But important steps against impunity have been taken in recent years, signaling that there might be an end to impunity in the future.},
  author       = {Mannerström, Magnus},
  keyword      = {Folkrätt,Public International Law},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Head of State Immunity and International Crimes},
  year         = {2015},
}