Recent Developments in the Law of Sovereign Immunity in the United Kingdom

Rosalyn Higgins Dbe Qc

in Themes and Theories

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780198262350
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682322 | DOI:
Recent Developments in the Law of Sovereign Immunity in the United Kingdom

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Recently, there have been very significant changes in the interpretation and application of the doctrine of sovereign immunity in the United Kingdom. The English Courts had long followed a doctrine of absolute immunity irrespective of claims made against foreign sovereigns. The principle of absolute immunity appeared to have been confirmed subsequently on many court cases, although more clearly in respect of actions in personam than actions in rem. On November 5, 1976, in an historic judgment, the Privy Council started what has proved to be the fascinating process of bringing English law on sovereign immunity into conformity with practice in most other jurisdictions: the Philippine Admiral found that immunity did not lie, in an action in rem, in respect of a vessel owned by a foreign sovereign where that vessel had been used for purely commercial purposes. Although there is no requirement of international law that immunity be granted in respect of commercial transactions which do not have direct territorial connection with the forum, other jurisdictions have sometimes taken a similar position.

Keywords: United Kingdom; sovereign immunity; absolute immunity; court cases; Privy Council; in personam; in rem; international law; English law

Chapter.  8362 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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