Reform diplomatic immunity to end people being above the law: Fmr UN judge Geoffrey Ronald

Reform diplomatic immunity to end people being above the law: Fmr UN judge Geoffrey Ronald
Geoffrey Ronald Robertson QC is a human rights barrister, academic, author and broadcaster, and former UN judge.
Geoffrey Ronald Robertson QC is a human rights barrister, academic, author and broadcaster, and former UN judge.

MIDDLE EAST EYE.NET – Britain must allow courts the power to rule on diplomatic immunity to stop “sham” appointments being made by foreign embassies and end “abuse” of the law by powerful individuals, according to former UN judge, Geoffrey Robertson QC.

Robertson, who spoke to Middle East Eye on Friday, after two recent cases involving Saudi and Qatari diplomats returned contradicting judgments.

The High Court in London ruled on 8 February that Saudi billionaire Sheikh Walid Juffali did not have immunity from prosecution by his ex-wife over divorce proceedings despite him being a registered diplomat representing the Caribbean island of St Lucia at the International Organisation for Migration.

A week later on 15 February a different judge in the same court ruled that billionaire former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, who is known as HBJ, had immunity from prosecution over allegations he tortured a British citizen on grounds he is a registered junior diplomat at Qatar’s London embassy.



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  1. I would also like to disagree with "Earl" as he focused on the voracity of crimes committed by diplomats. The UK is not interested in the voracity per se since the degree to which a crime can be declared to be atrocious can only be seen through the eyes of the victim.

    Notwithstanding the fact that crimes are committed by diplomats, the UK has long abhorred the use of diplomatic immunity to escape prosecution or litigation in Civil jurisdiction. We must never loose sight of intention, since crime could be perpetrated by anyone whether priest, politician, doctor etc. while they are already established in their position. However, seeking to infiltrate such established and dignified/ privileged positions with the sole purpose to comit crime or escape litigation can be viewed differently. It can bring the profession or the privilege into serious disrepute especially where such evidence leads inescapably to persons using the profession for other reasons than it was established.


  2. Everything done and published in St. Lucia seems to be questionable and shrouded with politics. The above article purports to make the two cases similar and present their findings as different so as to portray inconsistencies in their outcome and the UK legal system.

    To whomever presented such an article it should be expressed to the few who can be misled that whereas Ronald QC was making a general statement as to the procedure of such matters, the UK Court has an inherent jurisdiction over ALL matters. He also did not mean by his statement that the Courts did not make the correct decision in each of the cases.

    In fact both of the cases were properly decided, as both were decided on different presentation of facts. Whereas HBJ was a practising diplomat and there could be no doubt that he was, Walid Juffali by the evidence presented had not taken up his appointment or so had not taken any steps to occupy such a position.

    Therefore the fundamental issue is that the court was not making a declaration in HBJ's case whether he was or not in fact a diplomat because they have already established that he was. It was merely seeking to clarify whether his status could have afforded him immunity from such prosecution.

    This is quite contrary to Juffali in which case the Court is declaring that he is not a diplomat because of his failure to take up the appointment. If on appeal it is found that he did take on the appointment then he would be granted that immunity. However the fact that if someone is appointed or has taken steps to formalize his appointment can only be decided by UK law and not founded in International law. Simple contract law could elucidate such an issue. The UK offered Juffali diplomatic immunity for himself on our behalf, however he did not indicate to the UK that he had accepted their offer by taking any steps. We all know that in Uk law silence or inaction can never mean acceptance. If one buys land and never takes any steps to exercise ownership he not be allowed to exercise those rights if someone else occupies for a prolonged period.

    We need to make sure that ordinary people understand this and not generalize these issues as a matter of convenience. We also understand why Ronald QC is calling for the Courts to be given jurisdiction in such matters so to bring clarity. Which is quite a separate issue from the decisions in the cases highlighted above.

    Education Journalism is way forward to an enlightened public.


  3. The people below commit real crimes some of them Crimes against Humanity and they were allowed to get away Because of Diplomatic immunity.
    I don’t know leaving your wife is a crime especially if your wife was only interested in your money

    Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa has been accused of being involved in the torture of prisoners during a pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain in 2011.
    The arrest and prosecution of the prince was then sought. However, he was allowed to return to Bahrain after the CPS decided he had diplomatic immunity.

    A Saudi Arabian embassy employee in the UK was shielded by diplomatic immunity from being prosecuted for developing malicious software

    DIPLOMATIC workers in Britain have escaped prosecution for almost 90 crimes over a six year period,
    including human trafficking and sexual assault, it has been claimed.


    • Ummmm Earth to Earl, come in. Thanks to St. Lucia's phony appointment of Juffali, a can of worms, or Pandora's box has been opened exposing diplomats hiding behind diplomatic immunity for years, while the average citizen is buried in jail for chewing peanuts too loud.
      In other words Diplomatic immunity is being abused at unprecedented levels, and your Prime Minister and Earnest Hilaire have allegedly facilitated the same, and by extension are bringing shame and disrepute to our lovely little nation. Ok, i hope you understand.


  4. If there is one parliamentarian that should not receive a pension is Kenny .D. Anthony. The guy has cost and continues to cost the taxpayers of this country too much money.
    We are going to get our monies back, we need to repair our schools.


  5. Then he has the gall, the impudence to run for public office,
    who does he think he is fooling, only the SLP members I hope.
    That ballot sheet fiasco is an old SLP trick. I hope it blows up in their faces.


  6. I soo agree with this gentleman.

    Want I have especially noted is :
    "This would mean revising the 1961 Vienna Convention, which Robertson said was “largely drafted by diplomats in their interest”.

    Then this calls for serious reform.

    I expect the SLP hacks to say that the learned gentleman is being influenced by UWP and Estrada. SMH.


  7. This whole affair is a bad blemish on the face of my dear home.
    Isn't there a way to bring that to an amicable conclusion?
    Or wait till the next elections to do something about it, that is if
    my name on the ballot sheet is not taken out; damn it. What a world.


  8. A small country like st. Lucia, known before on the international scene for it's natural beauty, friendly people, nobel laureates and leading the smaller Island states. Now because of Kenny Anthony and Earnest Hilaire's selfish, arrogance and alleged corrupt actions have brought the country into the spotlight and for all the wrong reasons.
    Shame on you Prime minister and Earnest Hilaire. Can someone please tell me why these guys are not before the courts?


  9. Over to the Spin Doctors. I bet you they will say that Mr. Robertson has an agenda or is not credible. And St. Lucia is so deeply involved that Mr. President says "We got this". Wonder who the "WE" is cause it's clearly not St. Lucia. Mind you, in the same breath he says this is a personal matter. Then the PM comes out to say "I love a legal challenge" Who is footing the bill for this legal challenges kind sir?


  10. The reasoning behind each of the cases are quite sound. One was a Qatari Diplomat. Another was a Saudi national appointed as a St. Lucia diplomat. The UK Courts saw through the BS. The officials appointed by the SLP to take center stage in international affairs believed that their under-handedness could escape international scrutiny. As my little niece would say what a disgrace to the human race!


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