Abstract: This article examines the recent UK Supreme Court case of United States v Nolan concerning the rights of a dismissed civilian employee of a US military facility in England. It sets out a summary of the court’s fi ndings on European law and ultra vires. It considers the public international law aspects of the appeal and asks if the court’s acceptance that a plea of state immunity is procedural (and does not therefore affect the state’s underlying duty or obligation) means that the UK approach to the relationship between immunity and art.6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (access to justice) needs to be re-examined. The UK courts have hitherto held that art.6 is not automatically engaged by a plea of immunity on the basis that such a plea deprives the court of substantive jurisdiction so there can be no denial of access as access does not exist in the fi rst place. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has consistently maintained the opposite view and Nolan may have an impact on appeals touching on this issue pending before the Supreme Court.
Keywords: international law and state immunity; nature of a plea of state immunity; access to justice and state immunity; art.6 of the European Convention on Human Rights; 2004 United Nations Convention on the Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property; employment rights and immunity
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