The Legal Nature of Security Council Referrals to the ICC and its Impact on Al Bashir's Immunities

01 April 2009

Dapo Akande

Journal of International Criminal Justice 2009 7(2):333-352 DOI: 10.1093/jicj/mqp034

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This article considers whether states are obliged or permitted to arrest Sudanese President Omar al Bashir pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The article considers the extent to which the ICC Statute removes immunities which would ordinarily be available to state officials. It is argued that the removal of the immunity by Article 27 of the ICC Statute applies also at the national level, when national authorities act in support of the ICC. The article examines the application of Article 98 of the ICC Statute and considers the legal nature of Security Council referrals to the ICC. It is argued that the effect of the Security Council referral is that Sudan is to be regarded as bound by the ICC Statute and thus by Article 27. Given that the Statute operates in this case not as a treaty but by virtue of being a Security Council resolution, the removal of immunity operates even with regard to non-parties. However, since any (implicit) removal of immunity by the Security Council would conflict with customary international law and treaty rules according immunity to a serving head of state, the article considers the application of Article 103 of the United Nations (UN) Charter in this case.