Heads of state not protected by immunity, international court rules

Heads of state not protected by immunity, international court rules

Monday, May 6, 2019 2:45 pm

Deposed Sudanese President, Omar Bashir: The ruling was made in a suit involving him

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague on Monday ruled that holding office as head of state does not protect a person from international prosecution.

The ruling was passed in an appeal case that centres on former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir.

“Al-Bashir should have been arrested by Jordan when he visited the Middle Eastern country in 2017,’’ the ICC found, upholding its initial judgement from December of that year.

The tribunal had issued an arrest warrant against Al-Bashir in 2009 for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide against civilians and ethnic groups in Sudan’s Darfur region.

In spite of the warrant, Jordan did not detain Al-Bashir when he visited as president two years ago, arguing that his title gave him immunity.

The judges in The Hague said that Jordan had a double obligation to do so, because the country has signed up to the court’s statutes and because it is party to the UN Genocide Convention.

However, presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said that referring Jordan to the UN for possible sanction went too far.

Under court rules, judges can use their discretion on whether a violation is serious enough to prompt a referral.

“The Appeals Chamber finds merit in Jordan’s arguments and considers that the Pre-Trial Chamber abused its discretion,” the judge said.

Eboe-Osuji noted that South Africa, which failed to arrest Al-Bashir during a 2015 visit, was also not referred to the UN.

However, Jordan’s appeal was successful in one aspect, as the ICC found that the initial ruling had erred in referring Jordan to the UN Security Council.

Al-Bashir, who was in power for 30 years, was deposed and arrested in April in his country as the military took power after months of nationwide street protests. (

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