The privileges and immunities of international organisations
16 February 2012
The privileges and immunities of international organisations - the adoption of the Waite and Kennedy Doctrine by Domestic Courts
Most constituent instruments of international organisations provide that they shall enjoy those privileges and immunities which are necessary for the fulfilment of their purposes or functions. Because separate multilateral privileges and immunities agreements often provide for unqualified 'immunity from legal process' international organizations usually enjoy de facto absolute immunity from suit. In its 1999 landmark judgment Waite and Kennedyv. Germany (and Beer and Regan v. Germany), the European Court of Human Rights held that the right of access to court under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights might be restricted for legitimate purposes, such as protecting the independent functioning of an international organisation. However, such limitations were only legitimate and permissible if they were proportionate. In the Court's view, the proportionality of the grant of immunity depended upon the availability of 'reasonable alternative means.'
Over the last decade, this reasoning was followed by a number of domestic courts in Europe, which increasingly questioned the wide-ranging jurisdictional immunities of international organization. The influence of the Waite and Kennedy judgment is particularly fascinating in an area where traditional immunities under public international and human rights clash at a time of increasing calls for more accountability of international organisations. It also demonstrates the growing willingness of domestic courts to engage in applying and interpreting international law.
About the Speaker
August Reinisch is professor of international and European law at the University of Vienna. He currently serves as arbitrator on the In Rem Restitution Panel according to the Austrian General Settlement Fund Law 2001 on a pro bono basis. As of 2010 he is Dean for International Relations of the Law School of the University of Vienna.
His professional experience includes acting as expert adviser in Austrian and foreign court litigation as well as international arbitration; he was a Member of the ILA Committee on International Law on Foreign Investment, and he is a member of the ILA Study Groups on Accountability of International Organisations, State Insolvency, and the Role of Soft-Law Instruments in International Investment Law. He is president of the Austrian Branch of the ILA, Executive Board member of the European Society of International Law and of the German Society of International Law, as well as member of ASIL, ACUNS and other professional associations in the field of international law.
He has published widely in international law with a recent focus on international investment law, the law of international organizations, international responsibility, human rights and non-state actors.
August Reinisch holds Master's degrees in philosophy (1990) and in law (1988) as well as a doctorate in law (1991) from the University of Vienna and an LL.M. (1989) from NYU Law School. He is admitted to the Bar of New York and Connecticut (since 1990).
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