Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Last night in Sydney, the Australian Red Cross in conjunction with the school of law of the University of Sydney conducted a seminar on international law. The topic was ‘the prosecution of heads of state’.

The panel members were comprised of associate professor Steven Freeland, associate professor in International Law at the University of Western Sydney; and

Graham Blewitt, the Deputy Chief Prosecutor at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague between 1994 and 2004. He was involved in the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic. Prior to this, he also was the Director of the Nazi War Crimes Unit in Australia; and

Mark Ierace SC, the Senior Public Defender at the NSW Public Defender’s Office, and an expert in International Criminal Law. He was a Senior Trial Attorney at the UN Criminal Tribunal in the ICTY, leading the prosecution in the trial of General Galic. He is a Visiting Fellow in International Criminal Law at UNSW.

The panelists discussed the possibility of the prosecution of heads of state for the crimes committed against humanity and the international law during their terms in office. The political and legal obstacles to achieve this goal were widely discussed.

The issue of the current situation in Iran after the presidential election there has been raised. One of the main concerns was the crimes committed against the Iranian people in the aftermath of the election. Questions have been raised about the responsibility of the Supreme Leader, as the head of the armed forces and their paramilitary divisions, and also the president and his responsibility and control over the police force.

The seminar was informative. The panelists along with the audience were all optimistic for the prospect of the future prosecutions. They were hopeful to see more heads of state indicted by the International Criminal Court for their crimes committed while in office.