Diplomats can no longer hide behind immunity, legal experts claim, after “abusive” attaché withdraws defence 

Qatari diplomat called driver a “black slave” and offered £50,000 bribe to drop case against him, court hears  

However following a six-year legal battle, solicitors defending Mr Al-Ansari, who is currently employed as the Qatari Embassy’s head of its medical centre, yesterday withdrew from the case.

It marks the first case since a 2017 landmark legal ruling which is now being hailed by human rights and legal experts who believe it will set the precedent and “open the floodgates” to show that “immunity can no longer be relied upon”.

Mr Ahmed had wished to bring his case to tribunal years ago, however it was halted for more than a year until a Court of Appeal test case in 2015.  

This was followed by the landmark Supreme Court judgement two-years-later which ruled that claiming immunity from employment laws was incompatible with – and subordinate to – the European Convention on Human Rights. This meant that Embassies could not claim diplomatic immunity against staff bringing legal actions and allowed Mr Ahmed to have his case heard.

Just minutes after the hearing opened yesterday, Mr Al-Ansari’s lawyer, Nicholas Siddall QC, said he was “instructed to withdraw from these proceedings immediately” – a decision which the Employment Judge Joanna Wade said she has never experienced before in her 20 years of practicing.

His announcement was met with gasps and wide eyes from Mr Ahmed and his family members who were sat at the back of the court.

The decision to scrap the defence means that the team’s ten witnesses will no longer give evidence in the tribunal proceedings.

“If they have withdrawn then their defence is gone,” Judge Wade said. “It is up to the claimant to prove their claim and to disentangle this. There is spaghetti here, it needs to be untangled.  It’s a situation I have never experienced before.”

Judge Wade is expected to rule on the outcome of the Tribunal case on Friday and is expected to rule in favour of the claimant, following the withdrawal of his boss’s defence.

Jonathan Cooper OBE, a human rights barrister at Doughty Street chambers, said that following the Supreme Court ruling and , diplomats will be held accountable for their “egregious” human rights breaches in the workplace.

He said that the expected win for Mr Ahmed will mean that Embassies will “no longer have the cover of immunity and they are going to have to up their game and make sure they have proper employment processes”. “We will see Embassies being held to account in ways they were not before. There was no state interest in giving immunity, it encouraged that vile conduct.”

Howard Epstein, a partner at McFaddens LLP, the city lawyers added that if the Tribunal finds in favour of Mr Ahmed, “we will see similar claims being brought against those who used to be able to claim diplomatic immunity – one might add: ‘and about time too’”.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Ahmed’s son, Rashid, 39, said the family were dumbfounded by the withdrawal, but also ecstatic at the prospect of “justice being around the corner”. “It says a lot he’s pulled out,” he added.

A statement released by Mr Al-Amari’s solicitors said: “The Embassy of the State of Qatar and its diplomats are withdrawing from these proceedings with immediate effect. They consider that the proceedings infringe the sovereignty of the State of Qatar and are incompatible with the dignity and privileges of its diplomatic personnel.”

The case continues tomorrow in the defence’s absence.

 

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