Earl Hunt­ley says Juf­fali does not have im­mu­nity!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Toni Ni­cholas

Saint Lucia’s for­mer UN am­bas­sador Earl Hunt­ley has weighed in on the so-called Juf­fali af­fair, de­scrib­ing it in his blog The Or­ange Ban­ner as “much ado about a diplo­matic noth­ing.” In his on­line blog he writes: “St. Lu­cians were sur­prised by a re­port in a Lon­don tabloid that one of their is­land’s di­plo­mats, its rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion in Lon­don, a Saudi bil­lion­aire named Walid Juf­fali, was us­ing his diplo­matic im­mu­nity to shield him­self from a law­suit by an ex-wife.”

He quoted The Tele­graph as say­ing the le­gal im­mu­nity that Dr. Juf­fali en­joys as a Saint Lu­cian diplo­mat pre­vents his ex-wife Christina Estrada from fil­ing le­gal pro­ceed­ings against him in Lon­don, and that the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lucia had de­clined to waive his diplo­matic im­mu­nity.

“Not sur­pris­ingly,” Hunt­ley wrote, “the story gen­er­ated me­dia and po­lit­i­cal waves be­cause Saint Lu­cians gen­er­ally were un­aware that Juf­fali was a diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tive for their coun­try. In the cur­rent heat of im­pend­ing elec­tions ev­ery act by gov­ern­ment . . . is a cause for con­tro­versy.”

He cited the gov­ern­ment’s 11 Novem­ber re­ac­tion: “The lawyers for the for­mer wife of Dr. Juf­fali have re­quested the gov­ern­ment of Saint Lucia to lift the diplo­matic im­mu­nity of Dr. Juf­fali to fi­nally com­pel Dr. Juf­fali to tes­tify in the civil suit. The gov­ern­ment of St. Lucia has ex­pressed the view to the lawyers of the for­mer wife that this is a civil mat­ter in which it does not de­sire to get in­volved. In the view of the gov­ern­ment, this is a pri­vate mat­ter and to waive Dr. Juf­fali’s im­mu­nity for the pur­poses of re­solv­ing property dis­putes aris­ing out of di­vorce pro­ceed­ings will cre­ate a prece­dent that could com­pro­mise cur­rent and fu­ture diplo­matic per­son­nel here and else­where.”

Ac­cord­ing to Earl Hunt­ley, it is not known whether Christina Estrada’s lawyers at­tempted to file pro­ceed­ings against Dr. Juf­fali and were told by Dr. Juf­fali’s lawyers that they could not, or if they were told by gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties in Lon­don that Juf­fali’s diplo­matic im­mu­nity was a bar­rier to their ob­jec­tives.

“In the lat­ter case,” he went on, “that would have been a very strange re­ply from the Bri­tish who surely are well versed in diplo­macy and should have re­sponded dif­fer­ently; for, if her [Estrada’s] lawyers had not ap­proached the courts or the For­eign Of­fice on the is­sue, then they, The Tele­graph, com­men­ta­tors here and the Saint Lucia gov­ern­ment have all dis­played an ig­no­rance of the prac­tice of the diplo­matic priv­i­leges and im­mu­ni­ties.”

The for­mer am­bas­sador was re­fer­ring to the 1961 Vi­enna Con­ven­tion that at Ar­ti­cle 31 states diplo­matic im­mu­nity does not ex­tend to all civil and ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ters. Ac­cord­ing to the con­ven­tion, a diplo­mat and mem­bers of his fam­ily forming part of his house­hold (pro­vided they are not na­tion­als or per­ma­nent res­i­dents of the host state) are im­mune from civil and ad­min­is­tra­tive ju­ris­dic­tion in the host state—ex­cept in the case of: “a real ac­tion re­lat­ing to pri­vate im­mov­able property sit­u­ated in the host state, un­less he holds it on be­half of the state he serves for the pur­pose of the mis­sion.”

“In my view, and ac­cord­ing to this con­ven­tion,’ Hunt­ley writes fi­nally, “Dr. Juf­fali does not possess diplo­matic im­mu­nity when it comes to ac­tion by Christina Estrada to lay claim to his pri­vate im­mov­able property in the United King­dom.”

Saint Lucia can­not waive im­mu­nity for him in this case be­cause there is no im­mu­nity to be waived. “In my hum­ble opin­ion, this is a case of much ado about a diplo­matic noth­ing.” Re­mark­ably, Hunt­ley did not com­ment on the fact that the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to main­tain that if it should waive the im­mu­nity pro­vided Juf­fali by his diplo­matic po­si­tion on be­half of Saint Lucia, it would “com­pro­mise cur­rent and fu­ture diplo­matic per­son­nel here and else­where.”

Two weeks ago the gov­ern­ing party is­sued a press release that stated Dr. Juf­fali was sub­jected to the strictest scru­tiny by rep­utable agen­cies in­clud­ing the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment be­fore he was granted diplo­matic sta­tus in Eng­land.”

The smoke still has not cleared over Walid Juf­fali and his ap­point­ment as an

am­bas­sador for Saint Lucia.

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