Human Rights and the Immunities of State Officials
CHAPTER 5, Hierarchy in International Law: The Place of Human Rights (OUP 2012)
50 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2015
Date Written: March 1, 2012
When a state official is accused of serious human rights violations in the court of another state, that court must make a choice with normative consequences. On the one hand, there is the importance of protecting human rights by holding individuals accountable for violations, regardless of their position. That norm militates in favour of setting aside the state official’s immunity and allowing the case to proceed. On the other hand, there is the classic principle, enshrined in the United Nations Charter and still forming the basis for international relations despite some erosion of the principle over the years, that states enjoy sovereign equality and consequently should not be subjected to each other’s jurisdiction. In this context, immunities are seen as permitting the effective performance of the functions of individuals who act on behalf of states. According to this norm, the state official’s immunity should be upheld and the case should not proceed.
Keywords: immunities, state official immunity, immunity of diplomats. human rights
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