Diplomatic Immunity from Employment Claims

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If an embassy employee faces employment claims from his domestic staff, should he have diplomatic immunity?

In Reyes v Al-Malki the Supreme Court held that, no, he should not have diplomatic immunity.

In this case the Claimant, Ms Reyes, was employed by Mr and Mrs Al-Malki as a domestic member of staff at their London residence. Mr Al-Malki was a diplomat of the Saudi Arabian embassy in London.

The circumstances of this case were very similar to Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs & Anor. Ms Reyes alleged that she was treated badly during her employment and that she was a victim of human trafficking. As a result she started employment tribunal proceedings. The allegations are yet to be determined. The Supreme Court had to determine whether the tribunal had jurisdiction to hear the claims under the exception to the rule of diplomatic immunity contained in Article 31(1)(c) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.

The Supreme Court unanimously held that as Ms Reyes was employed to carry out domestic tasks, which were not related to Mr Al-Malki’s official diplomatic roles, then he would not be entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Written by
Lorraine Emery
26th October 2017