Diplomatic Immunity for Human Trafficking – Parosha Chandran

29 Sep 2021

We are pleased to announce that Parosha Chandran has been asked to assist with a test case before U.K. Supreme Court concerning the question of diplomatic immunity. See below for further information

Diplomatic Immunity for Human Trafficking:

I am honoured to announce that I have been asked to act as Counsel for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons (UNSR), Professor Siobhán Mullally, in the upcoming crucial test case before the U.K. Supreme Court concerning the question of diplomatic immunity and whether it can shield a serving diplomat, who trafficked and exploited a domestic migrant worker in the U.K, from civil or employment tribunal proceedings for victim compensation.

The UNSR has been given permission to intervene in the proceedings by way of written legal submissions as an interested third party. It is a privilege to be working with her.

The key question the Supreme Court will decide Is whether the diplomat’s employment of the Appellant, whom the diplomat had trafficked into the U.K. and had exploited for domestic servitude, constituted a “commercial activity exercised…outside his official functions” within the meaning of Article 31(1)(c) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, as enacted into domestic law by s.2(1) Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964.

An Employment Tribunal had answered this question in the affirmative, finding that diplomatic immunity did not apply and that the serving diplomat could indeed be sued for civil damages by the trafficked worker in her compensation claim against him in the UK’s employment courts. The diplomat successfully appealed the finding in the Employment Appeal Tribunal however, which essentially decided that the trafficking of the domestic migrant worker did not constitute “a commercial activity”, that diplomatic immunity therefore applied to shield the diplomat and the worker’s claim against him for damages could not be brought. The trafficked worker has appealed against that finding in her case before the Supreme Court.

The case will be heard next month on 13 October 2021 and judgment will be handed down some time thereafter.

The case will undoubtedly set a precedent that will affect the rights of vulnerable migrant workers employed by diplomats in this country and abroad and will have worldwide influence. The contribution of the UNSR as an Intervener could not be more significant.

I thank the UNSR Professor Siobhán Mullally for her critical leadership in the field and for instructing me to act for her.

I am pleased to be instructed in the Intervener’s case by the excellent Raja Rajeswaran Uruthiravinayagan and his team at Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd.

I thank my chambers One Pump Court Chambers and to The Dickson Poon School of Law for their support.

The case in the Supreme Court is called Wong v Basfar (it was Basfar v Wong in the court below).

Here is the Employment Appeal Tribunal decision, where it was found that diplomatic immunity prevented a civil claim against a serving diplomat. This is the decision under appeal before the Supreme Court.


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