The UN library frequented by delegates and secretariat staff from 193 member states made a bombshell revelation. It divulged that its most popular book of 2015 was a book about how the dignitaries can be immune from prosecution when they committed crimes in foreign countries.
In a tweet posted by Dag Hammarskjold Library in New York, UN announced that its most popular book of 2015 was “Immunity of Heads of State and State Officials for International Crimes.” The book was a doctoral thesis by Ramona Pedretti. Essentially, the thesis examined scenarios where dignitaries – delegates, heads of states and other government officials – found themselves accused of international crimes and at what grounds they may be immune from prosecution in foreign courts. It concluded that heads of state that are in service are immune from being charged and prosecuted by foreign courts; but leaders who are no longer in service are no longer excuse.
Netizens who saw the tweet immediately raised concern, saying that if it was the most popular book from the UN library then officials must have been looking for ways to evade criminal charges. One comment in the thread went: “Why would you brag about this, this is not good.” Another comment read: “How those diplomats and their bosses can be held immune from prosecutions for their crimes like parking tickets and owning sex slaves.” And another one said: “So they know what war they can start and not be held accountable.” One joked: “I guess it could have been Fifty Shades of Grey.” Some wondered whether the tweet came from a parody account and someone was just actually trolling online.
VOX looked deeper into the doctoral thesis in question. According to the report, Pedretti discussed the two forms of immunity which heads of state enjoy: the “immunity ratione personae” that prevents incumbent Heads of State from being subjected to foreign criminal jurisdiction; and the “rationemateriae” that protects acts performed in an official capacity on behalf of the State, from scrutiny by foreign courts.
According to VOX, the author cited a case involving Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009. In this particular case, the International Criminal Court argued that it is excluded from immunity by ratione personae, hence can prosecute Mr. al-Bashir. As it turned out, if a case against a head of state was filed and heard in international criminal court, he or she cannot be immune from prosecution by basis of ratione personae. What this law entails were domestic courts in foreign countries and not international courts like the ICC. A simple example would be that the domestic court in the U.S. cannot indict a foreign head of state while the ICC can.