Arfan Khan succesfully appears in diplomatic immunity case – Chancery Division

The claimant worked as a chef and general domestic servant for the defendant in Uganda under a contract (the 1998 contract). The claimant subsequently performed work for the defendant in the UK.

The claimant commenced proceedings against the defendant for failure to provide her with a copy of her contract of employment, as required by section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and failure to pay her salary in full. In response to the claim, the defendant invoked diplomatic immunity. The defendant contended that, although she had previously employed the claimant as her chef and housekeeper in Uganda, the earlier arrangements had been superseded by a written contract entered into in October 2006 (the 2006 contract). By that juncture, the defendant had become deputy head of mission at the Ugandan High Commission. The defendant contended that from that point, the claimant was employed by the High Commission, rather than by the defendant personally. In May 2011, the defendant became deputy head of mission at the Ugandan Embassy in Rome. In October 2011, the defendant denied signing the 2006 contract.

The court made orders giving the parties permission to file further evidence and directing that the matter be relisted (the October orders). The defendant sought the discharge of the October orders and a declaration that the English courts had no jurisdiction.

The defendant submitted that: (i) the claimant’s claim was barred regardless of whether the 2006 contract was entered into; (ii) having left the High Commission, she had immunity under article 39(2) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations; and (iii) a circular from the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the importance to the defendant’s work of her receiving domestic help.

The claimant submitted that, having left the UK, the defendant had immunity only in respect of ‘acts performed… in the exercise of functions as a member of the mission’ and denied her claims arose from such acts. It fell to be determined whether diplomatic immunity existed. The application would be dismissed.

The general principle was that a diplomatic agent who had left a mission continued to enjoy immunity under article 39(2) of the convention, with respect to acts performed by him in the exercise of his functions as a member of the mission. That immunity reflected the fact that acts so performed were in law the acts of the sending state. The residual immunity under article 39(2) was, however, less extensive than that enjoyed by a serving diplomat. A former diplomat would not necessarily have immunity in relation to claims by employees carrying out domestic duties (see [23], [24], [25] of the judgment).

In the instant case, the available materials did not enable the court to be satisfied that diplomatic immunity existed. The only dispute was that the parties had entered into the 1998 contract before the defendant had become a diplomat. There could therefore be no question of the defendant having entered into that contract ‘in the exercise of… functions as a member of’ the High Commission of Uganda to the UK (or any other diplomatic mission). It had not been established that the contract pursuant to which the claimant had previously been working for the defendant had been replaced or even varied.

The court was required to proceed on the basis that the claimant had continued to be employed pursuant to the 1998 contract and that the alleged 2006 contract had never taken effect. It had not been demonstrated that the nature of the claimant’s job had changed in any significant way when she had arrived in London. There was, in particular, no evidence that the claimant had carried out work for the High Commission as such. The circular had not been shown to have had any impact on either the contract under which the claimant had been employed or the nature of her job. Further, although the circular spoke of emoluments being ‘met by the missions’, according to the particulars of claim the claimant had continued to be paid by the defendant rather than the High Commission until late 2010.

Moreover, the provision of a housekeeper or cook ‘to promote conducive working conditions’ could, potentially, be consistent with such provision being thought to be of indirect rather than direct benefit to diplomatic functions. In all the circumstances, the court could not be satisfied from the materials that the claimant’s claims arose out of ‘acts performed… in the exercise of the defendant’s functions as a member of the mission’ (see [27] of the judgment).

This case has been reported widely and is referred to in the Lawyer: see

The claim was subsequently settled on terms when Ms Wokuri was paid a sum of money in full and final settlement of her claim.


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