- Nearly nine years have elapsed since the adoption of the 2004 UN Convention on
State Immunity. This paper considers whether the convention has increased legal
certainty in this area or whether practice is as unpredictable and divergent as ever.
- So far the convention has had little impact on countries which traditionally
accord absolute immunity to other states in their courts. It is therefore too early
to say whether it can succeed in its objective of enhancing legal certainty and
- There is evidence, however, that many national and international courts such as
the European Court of Human Rights are looking to the convention as a reflection
of customary international law. In these circumstances there is some force in the
argument that states that want to influence the way in which courts interpret the
convention should become parties to it.
- Uncertainties about the scope of the convention remain, although to some extent
these have diminished in recent years. A concern remains that it could ‘freeze’
international law so as to stop the development of an exception for serious human
- For the United Kingdom and other Western states with existing legislation on
state immunity, the benefits and potential disadvantages of becoming party to the
convention remain finely balanced.
State Immunity: The UN Convention and Current Practice
11 December 2013