The ICC as a "Tool" of the United Nations Security Council and the "Absurdity" of Head of State Immunity with Regard to International Crimes


  • Miguel Lemos



In Jordan Referral re Al-Bashir, the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) had to decide (1) whether Jordan had an obligation to arrest and surrender the sitting head of state of Sudan to the ICC for crimes against his own people and (2) whether to refer the matter of Jordan’s alleged noncompliance to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The appeals chamber tackled both questions inappropriately. On the one hand, in view of the lack of guidance from the UNSC and the whole mess created during the “AlBashir saga,” the chamber should have found that Jordan justifiably failed to comply with the arrest warrant issued by the ICC. On the other hand, the ICC should have referred the whole matter to the UNSC. This Article addresses these issues while surveying the centuries’ long evolution of the law on the international criminal responsibility of heads of state. While relying on prevalent
accounts on International Criminal Law (ICL), the appeals chamber narrates a story according to which, for a long time, heads of state enjoyed absolute immunity—even with regard to international criminal conduct. However, at present, such immunity does not operate before international courts. The whole story does not correspond to the most compelling account of the evolution of the
law on international crimes.