Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Jan Klabbers and Åsa Wallendahl
Chapter 6: Privileges and Immunities
August Reinisch* INTRODUCTION International organizations have always been endowed with broad privileges and immunities vis-à-vis national law and domestic courts, enabling them to carry out their tasks in an independent fashion. This functional necessity rationale for a preferential treatment (compared to ordinary subjects within a national legal order) has long dominated the debate and has rarely been questioned by courts or other decision-makers. Only the increased reach of activities of international organizations coupled with a heightened rights-awareness of those who might be (negatively) affected by broad privileges and immunities of international organizations has triggered questions about the legitimacy of sweeping privileges and, in particular, often absolute immunity from domestic jurisdiction. Emphasis shifted from the need to fully ‘emancipate’ international organizations and establish them as subjects of international law, to which functionalism vigorously contributed, to the necessity to ‘embed’ those new subjects of international law in the broader framework of international and partly national law, i.e. to make them subject to the law, which reflects an important strand of ‘constitutionalist’ thinking about international organizations. This contribution will briefly delineate the development of privileges and immunities of international organizations; focus on the way how the rather uniform standard of ‘functional’ immunity has been applied in practice and will try to assess the importance of functionalist and constitutionalist approaches to the field. THE EVOLUTION OF PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES Since the early times of international cooperation in the form of institutional arrangements, international organizations have been endowed with privileges and immunities. The League...
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