(United States) The plaintiff claimed that he had suffered injuries in the Dominican Republic as a result of acts done by the defendant in his official capacity of President of that Republic. The Court accepted that because the defendant was in New York, he was within the territorial jurisdiction of the State.
Held: ‘But the immunity of individuals from suits brought in foreign tribunals for acts done within their own States, in the exercise of the sovereignty thereof, it is essential to preserve the peace and harmony of nations, and has the sanction of the most approved writers on international law. It is also recognised in all the judicial decisions on the subject that have come to my knowledge ‘
and ‘The counsel for the plaintiff relies on the general principle, that all persons, of whatever rank or condition, whether in or out of office, are liable to be sued by them in violation of law. Conceding the truth and universality of that principle, it does not establish the jurisdiction of our tribunals to take cognizance of the official acts of foreign governments. We think that, by the universal comity of nations and the established rules of international law, the courts of one country are bound to abstain from sitting in judgement on the acts of another government done within its own territory. Each state is sovereign throughout its domain. The acts of the defendant for which he is sued were done by him in the exercise of that part of the sovereignty of St. Domingo which belongs to the executive department of that government. To make him amenable to a foreign jurisdiction for such acts, would be a direct assault upon the sovereignty and independence of his country. The only remedy for such wrongs must be sought through the intervention of the government of the person injured.
The fact that the defendant has ceased to be president of St. Domingo does not destroy his immunity. That springs from the capacity in which the acts were done, and protects the individual who did them, because they emanated from a foreign and friendly government.’
(1876) 7 Hun 596
Cited – Regina v Bartle and The Commissioner Of Police For The Metropolis and Others Ex Parte Pinochet Ugarte, Regina v Evans and Another and The Commissioner of Police For The Metropolis and Others (No 1) HL 22-Nov-1998
The government of Spain had issued an arrest warrant and application for extradition in respect of Pinochet Ugarte for his alleged crimes whilst president of Chile. He was arrested in England. He pleaded that he had immunity from prosecution.
Cited – Regina v Bartle and Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte; Regina v Evans and Similar (No 3) HL 24-Mar-1999
An application to extradite a former head of state for an offence which was not at the time an offence under English law would fail, but could proceed in respect of allegations of acts after that time. No immunity was intended for heads of state. . .
Cited – Belhaj and Another v Straw and Others SC 17-Jan-2017
The claimant alleged complicity by the defendant, (now former) Foreign Secretary, in his mistreatment by the US while held in Libya. He also alleged involvement in his unlawful abduction and removal to Libya, from which had had fled for political . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 26 May 2022; Ref: scu.220684