Diplomatic immunity lifted in custody dispute

A family judge has dismissed a senior Spanish diplomat’s plea to diplomatic immunity from an injunction preventing him from taking his child abroad.

The diplomat, who is not named to protect the identity of the children, is one of the respondents who were interviewed in a case brought by the English mother against the Ministry of Children’s Rights, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Foundation for Social Welfare, the State Attorney, the Spanish Ambassador and the father .

According to the couple’s divorce decree issued in Germany, the underage children should live with the father, but care and custody are shared between the parties.

The father then moved with the children to Malta because of his work at the Spanish embassy. The mother had also moved to Malta to be close to her children, the woman said in an initial judicial protest.

According to a court order in July, the woman is entitled to supervised access to her children twice a week for 2 hours.

The judicial protest claims that the director of the child protection service testified that during the trial the Spanish embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs put pressure on the child protection service to have one of the children who lived with his mother’s father be sent to him.

In the meantime, one of the minors had been taken abroad by the father without the mother’s knowledge and the mother’s contact with the child had broken off.

Shortly before a planned visit with the children, the woman was informed by the CPS that the appointment would not take place because the father had “asserted his diplomatic immunity”.

The woman’s lawyer, Robert Thake, requested an injunction to prevent the father from taking the couple’s child abroad. The father’s lawyer, Etienne Calleja, had actually argued that diplomatic immunity applied in this case.

But Judge Anthony Vella, who presides over the family court, disagreed. “A quick look at the type and extent of diplomatic immunity will immediately recognize that such immunity hardly applies to civil disputes between parents in the family,” the court stated in its judgment, in which the injunction was finally confirmed, and dismissed advised that diplomatic immunity should be avoided and local law hindered the ambassadors in carrying out their duties.

“This does not mean, however, that such immunity is a free pass for the diplomat to do what he wants, or that such a person is above the law or, in the Orwellian language, more equal than others,” the judge said.

“[The] The defendant in this case cannot hide behind the thin veil of diplomatic immunity and argue that it is inviolable or above Maltese law, ”the court continued, noting that the man had made it very difficult for the mother to see their child in accordance with a family court order.

The judge also found that the couple’s other minor child had already been removed from the island, “allegedly without the applicant’s consent”.

In addition, the defendant, who himself had applied for a similar injunction against the mother, passively waived his immunity and submitted to the jurisdiction of the Maltese courts.

As to the merits of the present case, the court said that it only had to check whether there were prima facie reasons for the provisional maintenance of the arrest warrant. The judge found that the diplomat had been found to be denied entry according to a court order at an earlier session and indicated that it was an offense against public order.

“The defendant may believe that he has every right to oppose a court order,” said the judge. However, if the family court has examined the merits of these proceedings and the defendant refuses to cooperate with the other parent in this matter despite such an order, the issue of an injunction prohibiting him from leaving Malta with the child is more than justified Under these circumstances.”

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