Immunity

On March 15, 2001,Ronald Grant Jones, a British national, was living and working in Saudi Arabia. A bomb exploded outside of a bookshop and Jones was injured. He was taken to a hospital and was subsequently removed. For 67 days he was unlawfully detained and was tortured by Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Aziz. He was beaten, shackled, sleep deprived, drugged, slapped and punched. Upon his return to the United Kingdom, he started a case against the Ministry of Interior the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Aziz for torture. Several other British nationals brought a claim of torture to the United Kingdom. Mr Alexander Hutton Johnston Mitchell, Mr William James Sampson and Mr Leslie Walker, were the men in the second suit. These men were tortured as well in Riyadh. They were beaten, deprived of sleep, and one of them was raped. The suit was brought against the policemen and deputy governor of the prison. The two cases were joined.

Saudi Arabia attempted to dispel the claim by arguing that their agents should be granted immunity and England did not have jurisdiction. Saudi Arabia and its officials argued that according to the State Immunity Act of 1978, they were entitled to immunity.  The Master of the High Court agreed that the Lieutenant Colonel should be given immunity. The Courts ruled in Saudi Arabia and the officials’ favor. Jones appealed the decision of the Court. The European Court of Human Rights upheld the decision. In a six to one decision, the Court granted Saudi Arabia and the officials immunity. The European Court of Human Rights held that Article 6 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights was not violated by granting the state immunity. Article 6 guarantees a right of access to court.

Do you agree with the court’s decision that the law does not violate Article 6 of the European Convention? Do you think that any legal ramifications can ensue from this decision?

HUDOC

 

One comment

  1. Officials holding high offices within a country are usually awarded immunity for their acts committed on behalf of the state under customary international law. The international community has found that those serving under an official capacity require immunity in order to accomplish their functions efficiently, without fear of being dragged into court. That said, the Ministry of Interior the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia might be entitled to receive some sort of immunity, claiming that the actions were taken in response to the bombing which occurred. However, I feel that Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Aziz should not be awarded immunity for the torture of a British national. There is no showing of a reasonable suspicion that Jones was involved in the bombing and he was in fact injured from the event. Furthermore, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights entitles Jones to a fair and just hearing in front of an impartial tribunal in which I feel he did not receive.

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