Political immunity

A rental case heard by the Supreme Court in 2010 involved a claimant who had filed a claim against a defendant, seeking RO35,000.

The background was that the claimant had rented a villa to the lessee (a foreign embassy) for one year, and the lease agreement stated that the defendant (lessee) must perform the necessary restoration/maintenance works at the expiry of the lease to ensure the villa was put back into its original condition.

The claimant named the foreign country’s ambassador as the defendant, and alleged that the lease had ended and the villa had not been reverted to its pre-lease condition. The Primary and Appeal Courts rejected the case, citing a lack of jurisdiction.

But the claimant argued in its appeal to the Supreme Court that Article 29 of Oman’s Court Procedural Law (Royal Decree 29/02 as amended) allowed the honourable courts to hear cases against non-Omanis who had a place of residence in Oman.

The Supreme Court stated that the lower courts were nonetheless correct, as the Court Procedural Law was subordinate to Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, to which both Oman and the foreign country in question were parties.

The provision provides that ambassadors have political immunity against criminal and civil litigation in the respected countries to which they are assigned (with certain exceptions). In this instance, the Supreme Court rejected the claimant’s objection, stating that the ambassador had political immunity from the case in question.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily