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International Organizations: the Untouchables?

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image of International Organizations Law Review

Immunity rules belong to the traditional standard rules of international organizations. It has long been accepted that international organizations and their staff need to enjoy immunity from the jurisdiction of national courts. This understanding is generally founded on the principle of functional necessity: international organizations need immunity in order to be able to perform their functions. However, the principle of the immunity of international organizations is increasingly criticized: if national courts cannot exercise jurisdiction over international organizations, who can? After outlining the intentions behind convening this Forum, this paper will discuss the origin of the immunity rules of international organizations. Next, it will give a brief overview of the codification of such rules, both in the 1940s and in recent years. Finally, it will present some observations on the question of whether there is a need to ‘update’ or revise the current immunity rules of international organizations.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of International Institutional Law (Schermers Chair), Leiden University,


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