Spain’s Emeritus King Denied Right to Sovereign Immunity in Harassment Case

March 24, 2022

The High Court of Justice in the UK ruled today that Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón, the King Emeritus of Spain, does not have the right to sovereign immunity in relation to the claim brought against him by Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein in the English courts.

In his judgment, Mr. Justice Nicklin has ruled that Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein’s claim for harassment is clearly not governmental or sovereign activity, but concerns Juan Carlos’s private acts in the aftermath of a romantic relationship.

The judge rejected every ground of sovereign immunity claimed by Juan Carlos. The judge found that Juan Carlos:

  • Is not immune from the claim;
  • Is not a sovereign within the meaning of the State Immunity Act 1978; and
  • Is not a member of the household of Spanish King Felipe VI, within the meaning of the State Immunity Act 1978.

In December 2020, Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein filed a claim in the High Court against Juan Carlos for harassment from 2012 until the present time, including threats and unlawful covert and overt surveillance by agents of the former king. She is seeking amongst other things a restraining order. 

Kobre & Kim’s Robin Rathmell, legal counsel to Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, said: 

"Today's judgment demonstrates that this defendant cannot hide behind position, power, or privilege to avoid this claim. Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón will now be answerable to an English court for his actions as a private individual. This is the first step on the road to justice; the appalling facts of this case will finally be brought before the court."