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Archive for UK

Newsline: UK Supreme Court deals state immunity blow in embassy row

Foreign nationals working at embassies and high commissions in the UK can bring employment claims, provided their complaint is based on EU law, the Supreme Court has ruled in a judgment that clarifies rules surrounding state immunity. In Benkharbouche v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the court ruled in favour of two former employees at the Sudan and Libyan embassies, upholding decisions by the Court of Appeal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The case centres on a claim brought by two Moroccan nationals, referred to in the judgment as Ms Jadah and Ms Benkharbouche. The women took the Sudanese and Libyan embassies to an employment tribunal after being dismissed. Part of their complaint centred on EU law while some was based on law in England and Wales. Both embassies responded to the complaints by claiming state immunity. Under the State Immunity Act 1978, a foreign state is immune from the jurisdiction of a UK court in claims based on the state’s employment of the claimant where the claimant (i) at the time of complaint is neither a UK national nor resident or (ii) if they work for the state’s diplomatic mission. The Employment Tribunal dismissed both claims, accepting the embassies’ arguments. However, on appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal accepted the claimants’ argument that the 1978 act was incompatible with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The Court of Appeal upheld that judgment, prompting an appeal from the foreign secretary. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the employees clarifying that the claims that centred on EU law should be allowed to proceed. ‘EU law prevails over English law in the event of a conflict, so those sections of the 1978 act cannot bar the claims which are based on EU law,’ Lord Sumption’s lead judgment said.



Newsline: UK summons Chinese ambassador after human rights activist barred from entering Hong Kong

The UK Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mark Field says the Chinese ambassador has been summoned following the denial of entry of human rights activist Benedict Rogers to Hong Kong. Before his trip to Hong Kong, Rogers had received calls from a British MP acting as intermediary for the Chinese embassy warning him not to come. He said he had reassured the embassy that his trip was purely private, not in any official capacity, and he would not visit jailed activists. After he arrived in Hong Kong from Bangkok, Thailand last Wednesday, he was not allowed to meet his lawyer and was sent back on a plane.


Newsline: UK police arrest assailants on Iran embassy

London police have arrested the two assailants of an organized group called ‘Restart’ who stormed the Iranian embassy in UK. The attackers had sprayed the symbol of the group on the embassy’s wall. Their timely arrest thanks to the coordination from the staff of Iranian embassy in London and the prompt presence of London police at the scene prevented the two attackers from dealing more damage to the embassy, which usually includes setting fire to buildings. One of the police officers at the scene noted that the assailants are under interrogation for determining their motives and other possible members of the group operating in UK, and stressed the resolve of the UK police force for guaranteeing security of foreign embassies. The police may open a separate judicial case against the members of the group and possibly their leader in the US.


Newsline: Kurdish protesters attack Iraqi embassy in London

Kurdish protesters staged a demonstration outside the Iraqi embassy in London as the country’s military continued its assault on the Kurdish city of Kirkuk in the north of Iraq. Protesters gathered outside the embassy on Monday afternoon as the Iraqi military closed in on the oil-rich region. In a video posted on social media, one protester can be seen hurling an object through a window. In another, a number of protesters can be seen kicking a door of the building, trying in vain to gain access. Monday’s military action saw troops take the city under Iraqi control in a matter of mere hours. Soldiers raised the Iraqi flag over key buildings in the city, following orders by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the flag be hoisted over Kirkuk and other areas under Kurdish control.


Newsline: Assange risks to be kicked out of Ecuador embassy over Catalonia

The Wikileaks Founder’s support for Catalan separatists has antagonised the new president, Lenin Moreno, who had asked the Australian hacker to stay out of the independence debate. Responding to the president on Twitter, Assange accused President Moreno of attempting to silence him. He wrote: “If President Moreno wants to gag my reporting of human rights abuses in Spain he should say so explicitly — together with the legal basis.” The Australian hacker, who has been sheltered at the embassy for more than five years, is believed to be wanted by the United States for exposing state secrets.


Newsline: US embassy racks up £11 million traffic debt in London

The U.S. embassy in London owes more than £11 million in traffic charges, according to British government figures. Staff at the embassy in Grosvenor Square, in the swanky Mayfair district, have racked up an £11,544,455 debt for unpaid congestion charge payments. There were 96,274 separate fines between the charge being introduced in February 2003 and December 31, 2016, according to Transport for London figures. The numbers were made available Wednesday as part of the latest written statements given by ministers and government departments. Drivers have to pay a daily fee to drive into central London during weekdays. Also in the top 10 list of non-payers are Japan (£7,629,370 owed), Russia (£5,603,320), Germany (£4,221,590) and Poland (£3,854,130). The total amount owed in congestion charge payments by foreign governments is £105,419,835, according to the figures. The fines have been allowed to mount up because of an argument over whether the charge is for a service or merely a tax for going in and out of central London. Diplomats tend to argue the latter, saying it is covered by diplomatic immunity. The U.S. decided on its stance on the subject in 2005.


Newsline: UK embassy now permanently staffed in Tripoli

Turkey and Italy are the only two countries to have formally reopened their embassies in Tripoli although the British and Dutch now have a rolling permanent presence. This means that there are diplomats in Tripoli all the time, replacing each other regularly. This past week saw almost the entire British embassy staff back in the capital.