Foreign relations law expert and Vanderbilt Law Professor Ingrid Weurth has noted that “even as nation-states accept treaty-based obligations toward their own citizens, they refuse to make themselves explicitly accountable in the national courts of other countries and usually refuse to hold other states accountable in their own courts. Immunity often remains the stylized equalizer.” Closely linked to state immunity is the concept of immunity for officials of those foreign states. Such immunity for foreign officials may be based simply on their status as foreign officials or the fact that their conduct was performed on behalf of a state during the official’s service to his or her country.
While not identical to determinations of foreign state immunity, former State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh has noted that rulings on the immunity of a foreign official are “derivative of . . . determinations of state immunity.” As such, determining whether an individual foreign official should be immune from the jurisdiction of a court requires a delicate balancing of complex factors such as customary international law and state practice, standards governing personal accountability for human rights violations, the standards for recognition of a state, domestic precedent as well as foreign policy implications.
This Symposium seeks to foster an interdisciplinary discussion about the complex web of issues to be considered and challenges faced when making such determinations, as well as the doctrinal rationale for the immunity of foreign officials.
1. Challenging the Customary Underpinnings of Foreign Official Immunity
2. The Adjudication of Foreign Official Immunity Determinations in the United States and Beyond Post-Samantar
3. Human Rights Implications of Foreign Official Immunity
4. Theoretical Rationales for Foreign Official Immunity and the Shielding of Personal Responsibility