UK Supreme Court hands down ‘anti-immunity’ ruling days before King Juan Carlos’s permission to appeal hearing

This judgement on diplomatic immunity is a new impediment in the way of the former king’s appeal against the civil lawsuit brought by Ms Corinna Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein for alleged acts of harassment, illegal monitoring of agents of the Spanish secret service.

The 65-page ruling is the decision on an appeal filed by Filipina domestic worker Josephine Wong against a decision of the Court which dismissed her labour claim for compensation based on the shield of diplomatic immunity put forward by London-based Saudi diplomatic Khalid Basfar.According to the judgment, a diplomat who exploits domestic workers in slave-like conditions cannot rely on t

According to the judgment, a diplomat who exploits domestic workers in slave-like conditions cannot rely on the status of diplomatic immunity accorded by states.

Basfar denied the facts and claimed that even if true, he cannot be subject to the civil or labour jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, based on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961).

Although accepting Basfar’s argument that ordinary employment of a domestic worker by a diplomatic agent does not constitute the exercise of commercial activity within the meaning of the exemption, the judgment said: “We cannot accept that exploiting a domestic worker by compelling her to work in circumstances of modern slavery is comparable to an ordinary employment relationship of a kind that is incidental to the daily life of a diplomat (and his family) in the receiving state.

“There is a material and qualitative difference between these activities. Employment is a voluntary relationship, freely entered into and governed by the terms of a contract.”

The UKSC judgment is handed down just six days before the Court of Appeal hearing on Monday, 11 July, which the Court has authorised to be streamed on YouTube. It is expected to last six hours, to hear arguments from the barristers on whether or not to allow an appeal against the judgment of the High Court. Mr Justice Nicklin denied both sovereign or state immunity and the possibility of appealing his own decision on 29 March.

Many thanks again to Ernesto Ekaizer and El Periódico de España for having my opinion on the claim filed by 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗻𝗮 𝘇𝘂 𝗦𝗮𝘆𝗻-𝗪𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗴𝗲𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗶𝗻-𝗦𝗮𝘆𝗻 against the King Emeritus of Spain 𝗝𝘂𝗮𝗻 𝗖𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗼𝘀 𝗜 before the courts of England and Wales.

Josep Gálvez

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