Skip navigation

The Position of Heads of State and Senior Officials in International Law

Arthur Watts public international law seminar series sponsored by Volterra Fietta

23rd January 2014

The position in international law of Heads of State and other top-level State representatives is a controversial and rapidly developing subject which lies at the heart of the tensions between principles of accountability and immunity. The international trials of Slobodan Milosevic, Charles Taylor and Jean Kambanda and the indictments of Omar Al Bashir, Muammar Gadaffi, Laurent Gbagbo and Uhuru Kenyatta have attracted worldwide attention and increased the expectation that leaders should be held accountable for serious violations of human rights. Yet the personal immunity of Heads of State which would bar proceedings in national courts has been the subject of firm endorsement by the ICJ in the Arrest Warrant Case. Such immunity is derived from customary international law and was deliberately left untouched by the UN Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property.

This seminar will examine some of the unresolved issues concerning the personal immunity of Heads of State, its scope and, in particular, who else may be covered by it and how it applies in both criminal and civil proceedings before domestic courts. The work of the International Law Commission in this area will also be considered, together with certain other aspects of the legal position of Heads of State and other top State office-holders, such as the legal effect of unilateral statements made by them.

Sir Arthur Watts (1931-2007), with extraordinary foresight, pioneered the study of this subject in 1994 in his Hague lectures and published what has remained until now the leading work. Joanne Foakes' forthcoming book "The Position of Heads of State and Senior Officials in International Law", which will provide an updated and comprehensive treatment of the subject, was inspired by Sir Arthur's early work as well as Ms Foakes' practical experience in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where she worked under his leadership.

This subject is closely interwoven with the law of state immunity, on which Lady Hazel Fox QC and Dr Philippa Webb are the leading authorities.

The event will be followed by a reception.

Click here to download the event flyer.

Join the conversation - tweet about this seminar using #HeadsofState


CPD banner

This event is accredited with 2 CPD hours.


This event is convened by Jill Barrett, Arthur Watts Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Sponsored by:

Volterra logo


Pricing

Members:
Individual £35
Full-time Academic £20
Full-time Student £12

Non-members:
Individual £59
Full-time Academic £35
Full-time Student £20

N.B. The Academic rate also applies to staff of government and non-profit organisations.


If you have a query, please contact: eventsregistration@biicl.org


Event Cancellation Policy

Cancellation by us
The British Institute of International and Comparative Law reserves the right to modify or cancel any event if unforeseen circumstances arise. If we cancel an event we shall inform you as soon as possible using the contact details provided to us and offer you a full refund.

Cancellation by you
All cancellations must be made in writing by email to eventsregistration@biicl.org and be no less than one week prior to the event.

Payment for registration will always be required, and must be made prior to the event. If sufficient written notification of cancellation is received, a full refund will be given. If insufficient notice is given, payment for your registration will still be required. Where people book less than 5 working days before an event, they accept that no refund is possible if they fail to attend.

No charge events
All events are costly to set up, even those for which there is 'no charge'. If you register but find you are unable to attend, please let us know as soon as possible. As a charity we need to cover the costs of events, and we may charge you a fee of £10 for administration and catering costs if you fail to attend or give us less than 24 hours notice.

By registering for an event, you have confirmed that you have read and understood our cancellation policy.

23rd November 2017 | LONDON

The standard of review of national court decisions by investment tribunals

Read more

27th November 2017 | LONDON

40th FA Mann Lecture

Read more

4th December 2017 | LONDON

Harry Weinrebe Annual Lecture: Perspectives on 15 years in Business and Human Rights - and on where we may be going next

Read more

6th December 2017 | LONDON

16th Annual Review of the Arbitration Act

Read more

11th December 2017 | LONDON

Legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius (ICJ Advisory Opinion)

Read more