Head of State Immunity

The Society's 114th Annual Meeting—and first Virtual Annual Meeting—took place June 25–26, 2020. The 2020 Annual Meeting theme, "The Promise of International Law," was an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of international law, while reaffirming our commitment to achieving its promise of a more just and peaceful world.

Organized by the International Criminal Law Interest Group

This panel will explore the concept of head-of-state immunity under international criminal law, in light of recent case law and other prosecutorial and investigative developments at the International Criminal Court, as well as the International Court of Justice and within other tribunals, on this topic. Head-of-state immunity remains a controversial topic within International Criminal Law: although many scholars and tribunal prosecutors argue that sitting heads of state should not be immune from international prosecutions if accused of atrocity crimes, multiple states as well as a minority of scholars assert the opposite. In practice, the work of the International Criminal Court as well as the work of other tribunals, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, have been hampered because of the assertion of head-of-state immunity. Moreover, immunity has been asserted by former and sitting heads of state within domestic contexts; such immunity claims impede the pursuit of justice and the imposition of individual criminal responsibility. This panel will explore head-of-state immunity, from its origins to its more recent applications at the International Criminal Court as well as at other tribunals. In addition, panelists will discuss whether the assertion of immunity differs in the context of atrocity crimes prosecutions from its assertion within other types of prosecutions for lesser crimes.

Andrew Boyle, Brennan Center for Justice (Moderator)
Adil Haque, Rutgers University
Leila Sadat, Washington University School of Law
David Scheffer, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
Ingrid Wuerth, Vanderbilt University School of Law

(Speaker organizations are shown as of June 2020)