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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Database of the CAHDI "The immunities of States and international organisations" - contribution of Austria - Jurisprudence of 14/02/2001

A. W. (individual) v. J.(H). A. F.v.L. (Head of State)


Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof)

Date of the decision, of the judgment


Points of law

An incumbent Head of State against whom legal action for the declaration of paternity is taken in a foreign State is immune from jurisdiction of that State unless it is impossible to sue the Head of State concerned in his home country.

Summary of the case

The plaintiff brought an action against an incumbent head of State as well as against his sister and two brothers and applied for a declaration of paternity. The first defendant claimed immunity. The District Court dismissed the application. The Regional Court as Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the District Court concerning the question of absolute immunity of foreign heads of States. The plaintiff finally lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court. She argued that the right of a person to a declaration of paternity by a court took precedence over immunity. Even if the first respondent, due to its immunity, did not fall under the jurisdiction of Austrian courts, the plaintiff had to be granted a right to redress against the other respondents.

The Supreme Court stated that an essential principle deriving from international law was that foreign heads of State, by virtue of their office (ex officio) and at least during the term of their office “ratione materiae”, were exempt from the jurisdiction of other States. They were also exempt from the jurisdiction of other States with regard to private acts “ratione personae” (absolute immunity). The Supreme Court noted that the first defendant therefore enjoyed immunity and was not subject to Austrian jurisdiction. This was not true for the other defendants who do not live in the same household with the head of State concerned.

The Supreme Court further stated that only if legal action against an incumbent head of State in his home country is impossible the right of declaration of paternity might - under the aspects of humanitarian law - precede the relevant principles of international law concerning immunity of heads of State.


No. 70b316/00x, Austrian legal information system (see: -„Judikatur Justiz, OGH”).

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