IILJ Working Paper 2007/11 (Global Administrative Law Series)

The Immunity of International Organizations and the Jurisdiction of Their Administrative Tribunals

August Reinisch

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International organizations regularly enjoy immunity from suit in employment related cases. Instead of litigation before various national courts, staff members are supposed to bring their complaints before internal grievance mechanisms and ultimately before administrative tribunals set up by the organizations. The scope of jurisdiction of such administrative tribunals largely covers the kind of staff disputes insulated from national court scrutiny as a result of the immunity from legal process enjoyed by international organizations. Inspired by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular its 1999 Waite and Kennedy judgment according to which the jurisdictional immunity of international organizations may depend upon the availability of “reasonable alternative means” to protect effectively the rights of staff members, more and more national courts are equally looking at the availability and adequacy of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms. Some of them have even concluded that the non-availability of legal protection through an administrative tribunal or the inadequacy of the level of protection afforded by internal mechanisms justify a withdrawal of immunity in order to avoid a denial of justice contrary to human rights demands.