Embassy of Morocco v Società Immobiliare Forte Barchetto

Date12 Settembre 1979
CourtCourt of Appeal of Rome (Italy)
Italy, Court of Appeal of Rome.
Embassy of The Kingdom of Morocco
Societa' Immobiliare Forte Barchetto

Sovereign immunity Foreign States Lease of property for embassy use Action for eviction Whether foreign State entitled to jurisdictional immunity Acts iure imperii and iure gestionis Requirement of connecting factor between relationship and the forum Whether nature or purpose of act decisive The law of Italy

Summary: The facts:In 1973 an Italian real estate company gave notice of eviction to the embassy of Morocco with regard to a lease of property in Rome taken by the embassy. In proceedings before the Tribunal of Rome the embassy pleaded that Italian courts lacked jurisdiction, stressing that the leased premises were used as dwellings and offices. The Tribunal rejected the plea and ruled that in renting the property the Moroccan embassy had entered into a private law transaction and had placed itself on an equal footing with the Italian landlord, thereby subjecting itself to Italian jurisdiction. Furthermore the public nature of the purpose for which the contract with the Italian real estate company had been concluded was not in itself sufficient to exempt the contract itself from Italian jurisdiction.1 The Moroccan embassy appealed against the judgment, reaffirming its claim that Italian courts lacked jurisdiction because the contract was directed towards the fulfilment of the embassy's public activity.

Held:The appeal was dismissed.

(1) The conclusion of a lease of immoveable property by a foreign embassy was an act iure gestionis. Such an act was subject to the operation of the connecting factor under Italian procedural law so that any dispute concerning its operation was subjected to municipal jurisdiction if it concerned an obligation which had arisen or was to be performed in Italy.

(2) The private nature of the relationship in question, which had been entered into on an equal footing with the company concerned, was the decisive factor. That nature could not be modified by the ultimate aim pursued by the embassy in renting the property. If Italian courts were to attach primary importance to the aims pursued by a foreign State they would have to deny any practical effect to the distinction between acts performed in the exercise of sovereign power and acts carried out under private law, inasmuch as any activity performed by foreign States and their agencies was in some way connected with the institutional ends of such States.

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