The immunities of States and international organisations

This database contains the original national contributions bringing together information on The immunities of States and international organisations

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Member State
Type of document
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Database of the CAHDI "The immunities of States and international organisations" - contribution of Germany - Jurisprudence of 26/09/1978

Church of Scientology v. Director of New Scotland Yard


Federal High Court (Bundesgerichtshof)

Date of the decision, of the judgment


Points of law

The action was dismissed because the German courts did not have jurisdiction in view of the defendant’s sovereign immunity.

The question whether defendant is subject to jurisdiction of German courts is to be answered pursuant to the general rules of international law (see Article 25 of the Basic Law [for the text see D/19 under Additional Information]). This refers to customary international law. While sovereign immunity no longer covers acta iure gestionis it still applies to sovereign acts of States.

Whether the report of Scotland Yard about Scientology qualifies as a sovereign act or a non-sovereign act must be determined according to German law as the law of the forum. According to German law the exercise of police power is undoubtedly part of the sovereign activity of States. It even is at the core of sovereign power so that the report at issue here must be considered as an act iure imperii even if it had to be qualified as an act iure gestionis under English law. The report was sent to the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation upon its request pursuant to the international agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Great Britain on mutual assistance in criminal matters of 1961. Fulfilling an obligation arising under an international treaty on police cooperation in criminal matters always amounts to an act iure imperii.

The acts of Scotland Yard and its director – the defendant – are sovereign acts of the British State and not an act of the defendant as a private person. It would undermine the unlimited immunity of foreign States with regard to their sovereign acts if German courts were to allow actions directly against the individual performing these sovereign acts on behalf of the State.

Summary of the case

The plaintiff brought an action for a permanent injunction against the defendant in view of the fact that New Scotland Yard had issued a report on the Scientology movement accusing it of dishonest acts to the detriment of its members. This report had been sent to the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (Bundeskriminalamt) upon its request and transmitted by it to all the State offices of criminal investigation (Landeskriminalämter). The plaintiff claimed that certain factual allegations made in the report were untrue.


Neue Juristische Wochenschrift 1979, p.1101 et seq.

Additional information (explanations, notes, etc.)