Diplomatic Immunity for Consulates as Employer

The ECJ had to decide on July 19, 2012 (re C-154/11 Ahmed Mahamdia v Algeria) whether a consulate may hide behind its diplomatic status to enslave their employees.


© Tom-Hanisch @ fotalia

Mr Mahamdia, who has Algerian and German nationality worked for the Algerian State as a driver at its embassy in Berlin. He is contesting his dismissal before the German courts and claims compensation. Algeria argues, however, that as a foreign State it enjoys immunity from jurisdiction in Germany, recognized by international law under which a State cannot be subjected to the jurisdiction of another State. In addition, Algeria relies on the jurisdiction stipulation in the employment contract. It provides that, in the event of a dispute, only the Algerian courts are to have jurisdiction.

The court had the problem whether or not such actions were permissible in Germany. ECJ held that a consulate is to be treated just as any other administrative office, as long as no acts of sovereignty were concerned. As to the immunity pleaded by Algeria, the Court explains that immunity is not absolute. It is generally recognized whenever the dispute concerns sovereign acts. It may be excluded, by contrast, if the legal proceedings relate to acts, which do not fall within the exercise of public powers. The employment of a chauffeur has nothing to do with any official tasks of Algeria. Therefore such employment cannot be considered as pertaining to sovereignty.


This is only a partial victory! It remains unclear if and how the chauffer will receive his salary. It might be possible to sue the diplomatic mission in civil court for non-sovereign relationships. However, it will be very difficult to enforce payment in Germany due to the diplomatic immunity.


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