Dag Hammarskjöld Library Wikimedia Commons/Gryffindor

A simple tweet by the mostly social media-silent UN Library about its most borrowed book of 2015 has shocked a number of social media users.

The book in question, titled ‘Immunity of Heads of State and State Officials for International Crimes,’ isn’t a UN document like most of the library’s assets. Instead, it was written by University of Lucerne student Ramona Pedretti, based on her doctoral thesis about whether heads of state can be charged in foreign courts.

The UN Library, or the Dag Hammarskjöld Library at the United Nations Headquarters, serves Member States delegates and secretariat staff, including those many would deem suitable of being hauled to Hague.

The “academic book concerning international laws on immunity” (in the UN Library’s words) finds that current heads of states cannot be prosecuted overseas, although this immunity does not apply to past leaders.

This conclusion derives from the two forms of immunity in international law – Immunity ratione personae, which prevents incumbent heads of state from being subjected to foreign criminal jurisdiction, and which Pedretti concludes is absolute.

On the other hand, immunity ratione materiae, which “protects official acts from scrutiny by foreign courts”, may be an invalid argument for leaders who have left office, such as the case of Augusto Pinochet’s arrest by Spain.

Understandably, some Twitter users were quick to challenge the Library’s post, with one commenting that the book being the most popular of 2015 was “somewhat disconcerting,” and another asking if the account was joking.

Some even claimed that the ‘brag’ was shameful.

If you’re interested in having a read of the book, it can be found here.