Jones v Ministry of Interior for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and others: HL 14 Jun 2006

The claimants said that they had been tortured by Saudi police when arrested on false charges. They sought damages, and appealed against an order denying jurisdiction over the defendants. They said that the allegation of torture allowed an exception to state immunity.
Held: The Kingdom’s appeal succeeded. The protection of state immunity was essentially a procedural one. It was not a matter where the court had a choice, and the Court of Appeal had been wrong to take to itself any discretion. Torture cannot be justified by any rule of domestic or international law, but the question at issue was whether such a norm conflicts with a rule which accords state immunity: ‘The jus cogens is the prohibition on torture. But the United Kingdom, in according state immunity to the Kingdom, is not proposing to torture anyone. Nor is the Kingdom, in claiming immunity, justifying the use of torture. It is objecting in limine to the jurisdiction of the English court to decide whether it used torture or not.’
Part I of the 1978 Act was not disproportionate as inconsistent with a peremptory norm or ius cogens of international law and its application did not infringe the claimants’ rights under article 6 of the ECHR.
Lord Bingham said: ‘. . the claimants must show that the restriction is not directed to a legitimate objective and is disproportionate. They seek to do so by submitting that the grant of immunity to the Kingdom on behalf of itself or its servants would be inconsistent with a peremptory norm of international law, a jus cogens applicable erga omnes and superior in effect to other rules of international law, which requires that the practice of torture should be suppressed and the victims of torture compensated . . there is no evidence that states have recognised or given effect to an international law obligation to exercise universal jurisdiction over claims arising from alleged breaches of peremptory norms of international law, nor is there any consensus of judicial and learned opinion that they should. This is significant, since these are sources of international law. But this lack of evidence is not neutral: since the rule on immunity is well-understood and established, and no relevant exception is generally accepted, the rule prevails.’
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘But the same approach cannot be adopted in international law, which is based upon the common consent of nations. It is not for a national court to ‘develop’ international law by unilaterally adopting a version of that law which, however desirable, forward-looking and reflective of values it may be, is simply not accepted by other states.’
Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Lord Carswell
[2006] UKHL 26, [2007] 1 AC 270, [2007] 1 All ER 113, [2006] 2 WLR 1424
Bailii, Bailii
State Immunity Act 1978, European Convention on Human Rights 6
England and Wales
CitedTwycross v Dreyfus CA 1877
State immunity is not to be got around by suing the employees of the state. Here, the only possible case was against the state itself.
Sir George Jessel MR said: ‘the municipal law of this country does not enable the tribunals of this country . .
CitedCompania Naviera Vascongado v Steamship ‘Cristina’ HL 1938
A state-owned ship that was used for public purposes could not be made the subject of proceedings in rem. Lord Atkin described the absolute immunity of a sovereign of a foreign state within this jurisdiction: ‘The foundation for the application to . .
CitedZoernsch v Waldock CA 1964
A claim was lodged against a former president as well as the current secretary of the European Commission of Human Rights. The former president, Sir Humphrey Waldock, was under the 1960 Order entitled to ‘the like immunity from legal process as is . .
CitedAIG Capital Partners Inc and Another v Kazakhstan ComC 20-Oct-2005
Aitkens J said as to the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property that it though not in force, and not ratified by the United Kingdom: ‘its existence and adoption by the UN after the long and careful work . .
Appeal fromJones v Ministry of Interior Al-Mamlaka Al-Arabiya As Saudiya Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and Another CA 28-Oct-2004
The claimants sought damages alleging torture by the respondent whilst held in custody in Saudi Arabia.
Held: Although the state enjoyed freedom from action, where the acts were ones of torture, and action could proceed against state officials . .
CitedThe Owners of The Ship Philippine Admiral (Philippine Flag) v Wellem Shipping (Hong Kong) Limited and Another PC 5-Nov-1975
(Hong Kong) Sovereign immunity was denied to state trading ships, restricting the extent of state immunity. . .
CitedTrendtex Trading Corporation v Central Bank of Nigeria CA 1977
The court considered the developing international jurisdiction over commercial activities of state bodies which might enjoy state immunity, and sought to ascertain whether or not the Central Bank of Nigeria was entitled to immunity from suit.
CitedBouzari v Islamic Republic of Iran 2004
(Court of Appeal of Ontario) The court had to consider ‘between the condemnation of torture as an international crime against humanity and the principle that states must treat each other as equals not to be subjected to each other’s jurisdiction.’ . .
CitedPropend Finance Property Ltd and Others v Sing and Another CA 17-Apr-1997
Diplomatic immunity had not been waived by an Australian policeman acting in breach of a court undertaking re documents. The effect of s14(1) was to give state officials protection ‘under the same cloak’ as the state itself: ‘The protection afforded . .
CitedPlaya Larga (Owners of Cargo Lately Laden on Board) v I Congreso del Partido (Owners) QBD 1978
The trading or commercial activities of states are not protected by state immunity. The basic principle of international law is that all states are equal, the rule is ‘par in parem non habet imperium’. . .
CitedA and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No 2) HL 8-Dec-2005
The applicants had been detained following the issue of certificates issued by the respondent that they posed a terrorist threat. They challenged the decisions of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission saying that evidence underlying the . .
CitedArrest Warrant of 11 April 2000 (Democratic Republic of the Congo v Belgium) (2000-2002) ICJ 14-Feb-2002
‘In customary international law, the immunities accorded to Ministers for Foreign Affairs are not granted for their personal benefit, but to ensure the effect of the performance of their functions on behalf of their respective States. In order to . .
CitedMcElhinney v Ireland; Al-Adsani v United Kingdom; Fogarty v United Kingdom ECHR 21-Nov-2001
Grand Chamber – The first applicant said he had been injured by a shot fired by a British soldier who had been carried for two miles into the Republic of Ireland, clinging to the applicant’s vehicle following an incident at a checkpoint.
Held: . .
CitedPlaya Larga (Owners of Cargo Lately Laden on Board) v I Congresso del Partido (Owners) HL 1983
The concept of absolute immunity for a Sovereign adopts a theory of restrictive immunity in so far as it concerns the activities of a State engaging in trade: (Lord Wilberforce) ‘It was argued by the [appellants] that even if the Republic of Cuba . .
CitedHolland v Lampen-Wolfe HL 20-Jul-2000
The US established a base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, and provided educational services through its staff to staff families. The claimant a teacher employed at the base alleged that a report on her was defamatory. The defendant relied on state . .
CitedRegina 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. . .
CitedProsecutor v Blaskic 1997
(Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) The acts of state officials acting in that capacity are not attributable to them personally but only to the state: ‘Such officials are mere instruments of a state and . .
CitedAlcom Ltd v Republic of Colombia HL 1984
A bank account used to cover the day-to-day expenses of an Embassy, clearly served sovereign purposes and therefore was immune from enforcement measures. The Act of 1978 must be read against the background of customary international law current in . .
CitedKalegoropoulou v Greece and Germany ECHR 12-Dec-2002
Greek nationals had sued the German government for damages for war crimes committed in 1944. Judgment was obtained, but the judgment could be enforced against German state property in Greece only with the consent of the Minister of Justice, which . .
CitedRegina v Central Criminal Court Ex Parte Propend Finance Pty Ltd and Others QBD 17-Mar-1994
A Home Secretary requesting warrants must be specific on the type he required. It was his duty, and not that of the police to state the method of seizure of documents for use in a foreign jurisdiction. A judge making an order should give reasons for . .
CitedProsecutor v Furundzija 1-Apr-1999
(International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) The court described the main features of the law against torture: ‘There exists today universal revulsion against torture: as a USA Court put it in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, ‘the torturer . .
CitedRegina 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.
CitedAl-Adsani v Government of Kuwait and Others (No 2) CA 29-Mar-1996
The claimant alleged that he had suffered torture in a security prison in Kuwait, and he obtained leave to serve out of the jurisdiction on the Government of Kuwait, and on three individuals, one of whom at least was served, on the ground that he . .
CitedHolland v Lampen-Wolfe CA 30-Jul-1998
A US citizen acting in course of employment as educational officer on US military base in the UK enjoyed state immunity from liability for defamation. This applied though he was a civilian and the State Immunity Act 1978 did not apply. . .

Cited by:
CitedAziz v Aziz and others CA 11-Jul-2007
The claimant sought return of recordings and of money paid to the defendant through an alleged fraud or threats. She was the former wife of the Sultan of Brunei and head of state, who now sought an order requiring the court to protect his identity . .
CitedMohamed, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 1) Admn 21-Aug-2008
The claimant had been detained by the US in Guantanamo Bay suspected of terrorist involvement. He sought to support his defence documents from the respondent which showed that the evidence to be relied on in the US courts had been obtained by . .
CitedSmith, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Defence and Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner (Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening) SC 30-Jun-2010
The deceased soldier died of heat exhaustion whilst on active service in Iraq. It was said that he was owed a duty under human rights laws, and that any coroner’s inquest should be a fuller one to satisfy the state’s duty under Article 2.
CitedEquality and Human Rights Commission v Prime Minister and Others Admn 3-Oct-2011
The defendant had published a set of guidelines for intelligence officers called upon to detain and interrogate suspects. The defendant said that the guidelines could only be tested against individual real life cases, and that the court should not . .
CitedReyes and Another v Al-Malki and Another CA 5-Feb-2015
The claimants wished to make employment law claims alleging, inter alia, that they had suffered racial discrimination and harassment, and had been paid less than the national minimum wage aganst the respondents. They had been assessed as having been . .
CitedBelhaj 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 . .
CitedA and B, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Health SC 14-Jun-2017
The court was asked: ‘Was it unlawful for the Secretary of State for Health, the respondent, who had power to make provisions for the functioning of the National Health Service in England, to have failed to make a provision which would have enabled . .
CitedReyes v Al-Malki and Another SC 18-Oct-2017
The claimant alleged that she had been discrimated against in her work for the appellant, a member of the diplomatic staff at the Saudi Embassy in London. She now appealed against a decision that the respondent had diplomatic immunity.
Held: . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 13 March 2021; Ref: scu.242521