State immunity, war crimes and human rights

27 September 2012

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About the lecture:

The law of state immunity has long played an important role in allocating jurisdiction between states, keeping the courts of state A from becoming the keepers of the conscience of state B and its government in non-commercial cases. But following the rapid change to restrictive immunity in the 1970s and the almost equally rapid codification process that followed it (of which the Australian Foreign States Immunities Act 1984 was part), the law might have seemed once more settled and uncontroversial.

That is very far from being true. There have been a series of developments, revealing a struggle between those who would reduce immunity still further - especially of senior officials - and those who would draw the line at the distinction between commercial and governmental activity. These developments include:

  • The Pinochet case and its progeny;
  • The Rome Statute for an International Criminal Court, with its apparently conflicting provisions on immunity (Articles 27 and 98);
  • The uncertain future of the UN Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of 2004;
  • China's apparent retreat to absolute immunity (Democratic Republic of the Congo v FG Hemisphere Associates LLP [2011] HKCFA 41 (8 June 2011))
  • The uncompromising stand of the International Court in Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v Italy; Greece intervening), Judgment of 3 February 2012;
  • Continued stresses in the law of immunity from execution (Sedelmayer v Russian Federation, various decisions in Sweden and Germany);
  • The decision of the NSWCA in Zhang v Zemin [2010] NSWCA 255 (5 October 2010).

Professor Crawford, ALRC Commissioner in charge of the ALRC reference leading to the 1984 Act, will review these developments and suggest a new synthesis.

About the speaker:

Professor James Crawford SC LLD FBA, is Whewell Professor of International Law and a Fellow of Jesus College at the University of Cambridge. He was a Member of the United Nations International Law Commission from 1992-2001 and Special Rapporteur on State Responsibility (1997-2001). In addition to scholarly work on statehood, self-determination, collective rights and international responsibility, he has appeared frequently before the International Court of Justice including in the Advisory Opinions on Nuclear Weapons (1996) and the Israeli Wall/Barrier (2004). He has also appeared before other international tribunals, and is actively engaged as an international arbitrator. Professor Crawford was a member of the Australian Law Reform Commission between 1982 and 1984, and produced reports on a range of topics including foreign state immunity. Professor Crawford was Dean of the Sydney Law School between 1990 and 1992.

Lawyers/barristers: attendance at this seminar is equal to 1.5 MCLE/CPD unit.

Time: 6-7.30pm (registration and refreshments from 5.30pm)

Location: No. 1 Court, Federal Court Level 21 Law Courts Building Queens Square Sydney

Cost: $15 (inc GST)

Contact: PLaCE Coordinator

Phone: 9351 0323

Email: 2929314a50314a3931090f052a0f365c2c192b3705772727