18 Oct Supreme Court victory for domestic workers in diplomatic households
Zubier Yazdani & Dan Carey of DPG acting on behalf of Kalyaan, and funded by the Strategic Legal Fund intervened in this important appeal.
Mr Al-Malki was a Saudi Arabian diplomat who brought Ms Reyes to the UK so that she could work as a domestic worker in his home. After fleeing her employment Ms Reyes brought claims in the employment tribunal to seek a remedy for her alleged mistreatment by Mr Al-Malki. Ms Reyes was recognised as a victim of trafficking by the UK’s Competent Authority.
After Ms Reyes succeeded in the employment tribunal the subsequent appellate courts refused her claim because it was found that the Mr and Mrs Al-Malki enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
The Supreme Court has found that the employment of a private domestic worker performing the role that Ms Reyes did was not within the official functions of a diplomat and therefore no immunity could be claimed once the diplomat left his post.
The Court left open the question of whether a serving diplomat who trafficks his domestic worker is engaging in a commercial activity and thus cannot rely on diplomatic immunity due to the commercial activity exception in Article 31(1)(c) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.
The majority of the Court found that there was a need for the law on diplomatic immunity to evolve in this way and found that there is now an international consensus on combating human trafficking. It took the unusual step of suggesting calling on the UN’s International Law Commission to further clarify the law in this area. There is now scope for further challenges to try to break the shield of immunity for serving diplomats who engage in such human rights violations.
Lord Wilson said,
‘..it is difficult for this court to forsake what it perceives to be a legally respectable solution and instead to favour a conclusion that its system cannot provide redress for an apparently serious case of domestic servitude here in our capital city.’
‘The Supreme Court has sent out a clear signal that immunity no longer means impunity. Diplomats should expect to be held accountable in the UK when they exploit their domestic workers.’