Sitting head of state immunity for crimes under international law : conflicting obligations of ICC member states?
Gebremeskel, Wintana Kidane
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Sitting head of state immunity for crimes under international law has been a very controversial issue in recent times. On the one hand, the debate bears that personal immunity has been renounced for crimes under international law. On the other hand, the advocates of personal immunity claim that the principle of immunity is still persisting under customary International law. Although the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a treaty based court, it is able to extend its jurisdiction to non-state parties to the Rome Statute through a referral by the United Nations Security Council. Lacking its own enforcement body the ICC relies on the cooperation of other states for arrest and surrender of those it indicts. The extension of the court's jurisdiction to non-state parties, such as the case of Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, has led to the reluctance of state parties to the Rome Statue to effect arrest and surrender citing a 'dilemma between two conflicting obligations'. This paper analyses the legal status of personal immunity before different fora such as International tribunals, foreign domestic courts and under customary international law. It also critically examines the legal basis for the alleged conflicting obligations of state parties. The paper at the end concludes that there is no conflicting obligation for states parties to fully co-operate with the ICC and the lack of co-operation in the arrest and surrender of a sitting head of state is inconsistent with international law particularly with United Nation Charter and the Rome Statute.