Should a leader be above the law ?

bbItaly’s highest court has overturned a law granting Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi immunity from prosecution while in office.

Obviously we can’t get into Italian law, but what of the principle?

Is there a danger that if a leader can be prosecuted, the law could become political, and court cases may undermine the functioning of government?

 Or is it right that everyone, including the person at the top, should face the law?

27 Responses to “Should a leader be above the law ?”

  1. 1 Rick
    October 7, 2009 at 17:47

    Absolutely not. Lack of accountability could lead to tyranny. Nobody should be above the law.

  2. 2 steve
    October 7, 2009 at 17:53

    So long as they aren’t dictators for life, I think they should be immune from prosecution while in office, otherwise this could be used as a type of coup by political opponents to get rid of the choice of the people who voted for this person… Wait for him/her to leave office, then face prosecution.

  3. 3 patti in cape coral
    October 7, 2009 at 18:01

    “Should your leader have immunity from prosecution?”


  4. 5 nora
    October 7, 2009 at 18:03

    No. Henry Kissinger used the immunity cover of two presidents to destabilize and overthrow democratic governments and it took a Spanish Prosecutor chasing General Pinochet to even challenge him in a serious way. I do not want the Dick Cheneys and Idi Amins of the world to get off stock free.

  5. 6 gary
    October 7, 2009 at 18:51

    No. Laws of the land must apply to all. If current or potential political leaders must more strictly adhere to the letter of law because of increased public scrutiny, so be it. What is the downside for the electorate if their leaders are law abiding? Certainly none exists that I can see. The consequences would seem clearly positive.

  6. 7 Tom in Indiana
    October 7, 2009 at 18:59

    It is necessary to have some sort of accountability for criminal actions for government leaders while maintaining the balance between prosecution for actual violations and what is simply political retribution. I think the United States marks a good balance in that the elected official cannot be prosecuted for anything they said that pertains directly to doing their job as a government official; and most times they are immune from prosecution for misdemeanors, but not for felonies. It marks a good balance between making sure egregious violations of the law are not tolerated while maintaining the integrity of the office.

  7. 8 Tom K in Mpls
    October 7, 2009 at 19:55

    Immune to prosecution, no. But there is a valid argument that prosecution on charges not related to their position should be delayed. They would face charges, evidence would be held, statements taken, time limits suspended, but not until they are out of office. Corruption and national security would head the list of charges they would face immediately. But unrelated items that would interfere with the function of their office could be delayed.

  8. 9 faysal
    October 7, 2009 at 20:24

    Weird question..today we talk about leaders.. tomorrow about rich people ,drugs dealers and assassins..so please Let’s re-word the question..should the law be above everyone??yes ,it should.

  9. 10 Peter in jamaica
    October 7, 2009 at 22:58

    Simple question that requires a simple answer……NO!!!!! As leaders they are expected most of all to up hold the law. What makes them different from everyone else they are human beings and citizens too aren’t they?

  10. 11 T
    October 8, 2009 at 00:27

    It’s interesting that in all of these comments, no one’s mentioned Bush II or Obama. Bush, Cheney and other former members of this Administration lied about torture (which legally IS a war crime). Yet they’ve never been prosecuted. Obama took an oath to uphold the Constitution (which says that war criminals are to be prosecuted). By not doing this, he’s violating his oath and could be impeached.

    • 12 Tom K in Mpls
      October 8, 2009 at 16:35

      The ICC went after Bashir and have stated Bush Jr is next. Also, Britain is after Brown for the same things. It was believed that Obama would follow suit after the results from the other to set precedence. But with Obama loosing credibility over other known issues, it may not happen. Also, don’t forget the unjustified second invasion of Iraq against the will of the world.

  11. 13 T
    October 8, 2009 at 00:28

    Is anybody going to do either one? Probably not. But also, look at what effect this lack of accountability has had on the States.

  12. 14 Tan Boon Tee
    October 8, 2009 at 03:39

    It depends on which political system you are talking.

    In a dictatorial regime, of course, the leader would be above the law.

    However, in a true democratic system, everybody is equal. Nobody should be above the law, more so the leader who is charged with the task in upholding its sacredness.

    Italy is a strange nation of weak and distorted democracy, virtually controlled by a flamboyant billionaire. And that explains. Or does it?

  13. 15 scmehta
    October 8, 2009 at 07:11

    No citizen including leader, of a country, is above its laws; In fact, the leaders must be made much more accountable towards ignoring/ flouting /abusing the laws of their country, because being the representatives of their people they be setting examples of honesty, integrity, responsibility and accountability.

  14. 16 H Dooky, Mauritius
    October 8, 2009 at 09:05

    Of course not. All must be equal to law. No body is above law including political leaders and parliamentary members. A country is only called to be a good governed one when equal opportunties and equal justice is prevailed to all of its citizens.

  15. 17 VictorK
    October 8, 2009 at 12:44

    I’m surprised this is even a question. Of course not.

  16. 18 Linda in Italy
    October 8, 2009 at 13:04

    If there is just and equitable rule of law, all citizens and residents of a country should be subject to that law, including those in positions of economic and political power.
    Immunity is a nonsense and the head of state and/or government cannot possibly be “above” the law, particularly in what purports to be a democracy, because it is only the law that permits them to occupy that position. It is the law, possibly enshrined in a written constitution, or, as in the UK, it is the constitution that is enshrined in the body of legislation, that sets out electoral systems and grants voting rights. Therefore, the mandate conferred on a politician by the people is in itself constrained by law. If charged with any breach of the law, the person in question should answer that charge immediately and if convicted, the body of law should then dictate the consequences for their mandate – either by revoking it, or by subjecting it to further electoral scrutiny.

  17. October 8, 2009 at 14:14

    No. Not even for the Emperor of Rome.

  18. 20 JanB
    October 8, 2009 at 15:02

    They should be immune to civil charges while in office to prevent opponents from using the courtroom for political purposes.
    Criminal charges should be possible, but only after a judge rules the case admissible in a preliminary hearing.

  19. 21 Tom D Ford
    October 8, 2009 at 16:37

    “Or is it right that everyone, including the person at the top, should face the law?”

    Of all people, the ones at the top are the ones who should be held most accountable to the Law.

    “Should a leader be above the law?”

    No. And neither should “Markets”. No Market should be above and “Free” from the Law and above Regulations. All humans and all of the creations of humans, like Corporations, Markets, and nations, ought to be accountable to the Laws negotiated and agreed upon by humans.

  20. 22 viola
    October 8, 2009 at 18:27

    Leaders are not above the law and should not be. If a leader does anything illegal in the exercise of his duties, he should be removed immediately, as in “One strike and you’re out.” Leaders must be held to higher standards than the citizens they are elected by to serve. That rule should be enforced at every level of government.

    If the leadership of a country has become so complex that it is impossible to do anything unless you do it illegally, that has to be fixed. If something is a problem, you don’t necessarily fix it just by making it illegal.

  21. 23 Jim Newman
    October 8, 2009 at 18:42

    Hello again.
    The basic law of any country is the constitution and if anyone or another law contravenes this basic law then it should be addressed. As far as Italy is concerned I fail to understand how this law passed the guardians of the constitution anyway.

  22. 24 mohammad qasem
    October 8, 2009 at 18:45

    No person or entity should be above the law. Having double standards is the gate to injustice and corruptions.
    This is the problem in the 3rd world countries and starting to surface in some industrial nations. I am sad at any time a high and mighty person escapes and glad when judges apply the laws strictly without any consideration for class, faith, color or any other character.

  23. 25 Thomas Murray
    October 8, 2009 at 18:55

    Another “within limits” question that your Henry II could answe,r pertaining to the accidental murder of his Archbishop in Canterbury.

    But Roman history gives us a better handle on this:

    Around 600 (-sh) BC, the Romans had a King Tarquin and his Lady — MacBeth types, only they murdered not to achieve power, but simply because they enjoyed being above the law.

    Now all rulers are expected to wack people ever once in a while. (We’re all trying to do this to Osama ben Lauden, aren’t we?) But if our leaders can’t do it legally, we at least expect that they should conduct their business with a modicum of discretion. The Tarquins were doing it out in the open, in broad daylight.

    Long story short, the Romans rebelled under their (sort of) prime minister, Brutus, after which they founded their republic, and never looked back…only with exceptions.

    The other side of this argument limits the degree to which one should hold ex-leaders accountable for their “mistakes” — even if fatal ones, like the invasion of Iraq — but if we held to that standard, our leaders would be constrained from doing much of anything, and our society would collapse.

    But I’m told that I do go on too long, so I’ll leave it at that.

    –Currently Under a Flood Watch in Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  24. 26 moshezve
    October 9, 2009 at 16:20

    Noone is above the law, especially those who make a law against itto make them above.

  25. 27 Janet Liu
    October 18, 2009 at 06:09

    Law applies to everyone, therefore it is right that everyone should face the law. Nobody (especially no political leader) has the power to grant exceptions, laws must have equal subjection to all classes, nobody can be above the law.

    In order to achieve good governance in a country, the rule of law must be applied to all citizens so that there will be protection for people and everyone can receive equal justice. Laws prevent arbitarary governance and protects the rights of citizens from abusive use of government power. If the law is subjected to only a group of people, then justice cannot be achieved and in the end, society will not exist without laws.

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