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20 May 2015 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Diplomatic immunity prevents claims being brought

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

In Reyes and another v Al-Malki and another (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and others intervening) the Court of Appeal has held that the principle of diplomatic immunity takes precedence over the international prohibition on trafficking of people.

A Saudi diplomatic agent and his wife engaged as domestic workers a Philippine national, followed by an Indonesian national. Both women had been the victims of trafficking and brought Employment Tribunal claims alleging racial discrimination, harassment and being paid less than the national minimum wage. The employers claimed diplomatic immunity in accordance with the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The Employment Tribunal upheld the claims but this was overturned by the EAT who held that diplomatic immunity prevented them from being sued. The Court of Appeal upheld the EAT decision on the basis that employing a domestic worker is not “a professional or commercial activity” that would fall outside the official functions of a diplomat and so be excluded from immunity under the Vienna Convention. The fact that the workers had been trafficked did not change this conclusion and furthermore it held that the international prohibition on trafficking does not take precedence over the international rule of diplomatic immunity.

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.

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