STEPHANIE VAN DER BERG
THE United Nations’ highest court has ruled in favour of France in a suit brought by Equatorial Guinea protesting a 2012 raid on a luxury mansion owned by the son of the African country’s ruler in downtown Paris.
Equatorial Guinea had argued the mansion was part of its diplomatic mission to France and should have been protected by diplomatic immunity, but a 16-judge panel at the International Court of Justice rejected that.
The case was seen as a test for the limits of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity, which shields government officials from prosecution abroad.
The residence used by Teodorin Obiang, 52, is on Paris’s prestigious Avenue Foch. France had argued that Equatorial Guinea was attempting to shield Obiang, known for posting pictures of his glamorous lifestyle on Instagram, by retroactively adding his opulent home to its diplomatic mission.
The court, known as the “World Court” because it settles disputes between states, said Friday that because France had consistently objected to giving the building special status, it did not have diplomatic protection.
“The court concludes the building at 42 Avenue Foch has never acquired the status of premises of the diplomatic mission,” said Presiding judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, reading the decision in The Hague.
As Equatorial Guinea’s case depended on arguments that France had violated its rights under the Vienna Convention, judges found it lacked basis.
Equatorial Guinea launched the case in 2016. The 2012 raid was part of a corruption investigation that resulted in Teodorin Obiang’s conviction in French court for embezzlement, confirmed last year. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.