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Test case for diplomatic immunity

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المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald
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THE Lebanese consul general in Sydney is trying to avoid paying $17,538.35 in costs awarded against him by the NSW Supreme Court for an unsuccessful defamation case, claiming diplomatic immunity.

 

If he loses his application set down this week for a permanent stay of the costs judgment, Robert Naoum may face enforcement proceedings brought by Nabil Dannawi, the journalist he tried to sue.

 

In the highly unusual case, the consul general took legal action against a media outlet claiming personal defamation for calling him a "Zionist", lost the case, appealed and lost again, and then claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid paying the costs.

 

A lawyer for Dannawi, Rick Mitry of Mitry Lawyers, told the Herald the outcome was likely to set a precedent for future cases involving foreign officials.

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"This may be an opportunity for some clarification on this matter to be given by a higher court," Mr Mitry said.

 

Dannawi said consuls should be asked to provide security for costs when they start court cases so that if they leave the country the costs are secured.

 

"It is hypocritical for the consul general to get orders against me from the court and when he loses hide behind diplomatic immunity to avoid paying me my legal costs,'' he said.

 

Mr Naoum recently returned form a month's leave in Lebanon. He has been consul general in Sydney, the second-highest ranking Lebanese official in Australia, since 2004. The highest ranking official is the ambassador, who is based in Canberra.

 

The case began in 2009 after Mr Naoum tried to stop comments about himself being posted on Mr Dannawi's Arabic-language website, www.alankabout.com, claiming they were defamatory and threatened his safety.

 

He took the case to the NSW Supreme Court asking for an injunction, saying at least one of the comments that he was a Zionist was offensive.

 

In August last year, Justice Ian Harrison dismissed the case and ordered costs against Mr Naoum. He said while the comments might have been offensive, they were not defamatory and were "likely to be treated by the objective reader as no more and no less than a series of unstructured and irrelevant rantings".

 

Mr Naoum failed to have the decision set aside by the NSW Court of Appeal. Lawyers for Mr Naoum say he enjoys diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Conventions, the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunity Act 1972 and the Foreign States Immunities Act 1985.

 

Neither Mr Naoum nor his lawyer, Georges Elias, returned calls from the Herald yesterday.

 

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/test-case-for-diplomatic-immunity-20100928-15vuq.html#ixzz2gtttqYbg

 

المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald

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