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Govt tables bill to regulate immunity of foreign state and leaders from Malaysian courts

Publish date: Wed, 29 Nov 2023, 07:34 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has tabled the Jurisdictional Immunities of Foreign States Bill for the first reading in Parliament today.

The bill was read by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

The bill is aimed to regulate and oversee the immunity granted to a foreign state and its assets, a head of state, and a head of government from the jurisdiction of Malaysian courts, prohibiting the initiation of proceedings against them by any party.

However, the immunity granted would not be absolute and was subject to limitations.

Clause 11 in the bill aimed to ensure that a foreign state could be subject to the court's jurisdiction in legal proceedings related to rights, interests, or obligations concerning immovable property in Malaysia.

This included property from inheritance, gifts, unclaimed property, trust assets, a bankrupt's estate, or a company's assets during liquidation.

In Clause 12, the bill would provide that a foreign state could be subject to the court's jurisdiction in legal proceedings relating to their rights in intellectual or industrial properties.

According to the bill, this would include cases of alleged infringement by the foreign state on intellectual or industrial property rights belonging to a third party that had been protected, registered, or granted in Malaysia.

In a statement, Azalina said the bill was based on the doctrine of immunity of foreign states from the jurisdiction of courts, a long-standing practice under international law, as well as several principles outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Jurisdictional Immunity of States and Their Property 2004.

"The principle of reciprocal treatment is one of the key elements in this bill. Power will be granted to the Prime Minister to revoke immunity granted to any foreign country if that foreign country does not provide similar immunity to us.

"Additionally, through this Bill, a Foreign State Immunity Council chaired by the Prime Minister will be established, among other tasks, to carefully consider and decide on matters related to the immunity of foreign states that may arise in the future," she said.

She added that the bill reflected Malaysia's effort to safeguard the immunity of foreign states while further strengthening Malaysia's diplomatic relations with foreign countries.

"It is hoped that the existence of this law will encourage foreign governments to reciprocally grant immunity to Malaysia, thus ensuring Malaysia's sovereignty in the event of legal actions initiated against Malaysia in those foreign countries."

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