head of state immunity

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The freedom, under customary international law, of heads of state, heads of government, and ministers from criminal jurisdiction for public and private acts committed while in office or before. (See The Arrest Warrant of 11 April 2000 (Democratic Republic of Congo v Belgium), ICJ Reports, 2002). The position after they have left office is not quite so clear. The Arrest Warrant case suggests that they have immunity for public acts done whilst in office. However, if a head of state or minister ordered torture while in office he would be liable under the Torture Convention. In the case of the former president of Chile, General Pinochet, the House of Lords decided that he had no immunity to prevent him being extradited for torture charges relating to matters while he was in office.

Subjects: International Law.

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