Assume that there is head of state that is elected in elections that are fully recognized in his/her country and that is at least partially recognized as a elected head of state by other countries and to whom (notwithstanding previous disputes) the other countries have conferred the full diplomatic privileges that are associated with his/her status as a legitimate head of state.

Assume that this head of state takes decision to perform act of war against the other sovereign country and this act of war therefore violates the International law.

Assume that other countries issue financial, economic personal sanctions against some persons of the country which performed acts of war.

My question is - why there are never the sanctions against this head of state (decision maker) but why the sanctions are directed only towards the lesser functionaries? I have heard that the his/her status of diplomat provides the full immunity against such sanctions, but - I can not understand - whether or not the diplomatic immunity and privileges are preserved when his/her orders violates the International law?

And in what cases (what laws additionally should be breached) the head of state is subject not only to the personal financial sanctions but he/she can be made captive (prisoner) and tried in the court or outright executed without trial?

  • 3
    I'm not at all convinced the the premise of the question is correct. Heads of state are sometimes sanctioned. Nor, am I convinced that "acts of war" necessarily violate international law.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 22:49
  • 1
    I am interested in the particular case but I am afraid to tell it. Maybe someone other can think about it and open the relevant question? I am not ready to do it, so I made abstract question.
    – TomR
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 23:14
  • 3
    "I have heard that the his/her status of diplomat provides the full immunity against such sanctions": this is incorrect. Diplomatic immunity protects diplomats against arrest and against the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state. Political sanctions are not a civil or criminal penalty imposed by a court and they do not necessarily involve the arrest of the target.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


Your question is based on an incorrect premise

Heads of State can be and have been held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

For example:

  • Technically, neither the German nor the Japanese case involved a head of state; with Germany, the HOS had blown his brains out beforehand, while with Japan the guy in charge of the trials shielded the HOS from prosecution 'cause he was totes infatuated with him.
    – Vikki
    Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 12:01
  • 1
    @Vikki Donetz was head of state of Germany and was most definitely prosecuted. Hirohito was protected as a condition of Japanese surrender.
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 20:10

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