Ending the Immunity of National Leaders for International Crimes

On Wednesday 13th September, Prof. Dan Plesch (SOAS University of London/ 9 Bedford Row), Dr Dominika Uczkiewicz (Pilecki Institute), Dr Amina Adanan (Maynooth University)and Dr Mba Chidi Nmaju as Chair spoke at SOAS University on the implications of new research in the unsealed WW2 indictments of Adolph Hitler and other leaders by Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia and Poland, supported by the UN War Crimes Commission.

The issue of the immunity of national leaders remains important in international criminal law and politics. For example, while the ICC has certain jurisdiction and the concept of Universal Jurisdiction opens other opportunities for judicial action, the International Court of Justice ruling against bilateral national prosecutions is restrictive.

New analysis by Uczkiewicz,  Plesch and Adanan of the now unsealed archives of the 1943-1948 UNWCC revealed a previously barely public but, in fact, rich mine of state practice, precedent and multilateral advisory opinions strengthening customary international law, not least in the context of universal jurisdiction.

They presented analysis of  the 700 pages of indictments of Hitler and his entourage, and of the Italian fascist leadership developed by national governments and approved by the 16 nation UNWCC as meeting a prima facie standard. This system of positive complementarity has broader lessons that may be considered.

This seminar was part of the SOAS-led Leverhulme funded project on positive complementarity and is also part of a series of activities marking the first meeting of the UNWCC at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in the autumn of 1943.

You may watch a recording of the event below: