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date: 01 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes domestic U.S. law governing the immunities of foreign states and governments, foreign heads of state and governments, diplomatic and consular officials, other official visitors, and international organizations from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. A major focus is the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, which provides specific exceptions to immunity for a foreign state’s commercial activities, noncommercial torts, arbitral agreements and awards, expropriations of foreign property, and acts of state-sponsored terrorism (among others). As the chapter notes, these statutory exceptions have been the subject of extensive judicial interpretation. Similarly, the immunities of foreign officials (including accredited diplomats and consular officers, heads of state and government, and visiting officials of lesser rank) have evolved over time. The chapter also addresses the immunities of international organizations and their officers and employees located in the United States, as well as the representatives of member states to those organizations. As an aspect of foreign relations law, these issues frequently assume significant political as well as legal importance. Moreover, while they are common to many legal systems, national laws often differ in their specific approaches; accordingly, the chapter notes several areas of comparative interest. The chapter concludes with a brief assessment of future developments in U.S. law.

Keywords: foreign sovereign immunity, diplomatic and consular immunity, foreign official immunity, commercial activity, noncommercial torts, waiver, state-sponsored terrorism, expropriation, international organizations, enforcement of judgments

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