Court: Ex-Slovakian envoy has diplomatic immunity in breach of contract case

Yisrael Ratahoz can't sue ambassador Ivo Hlavacek for damages related to upkeep of their former residence in Herzliya Pituah.

The former Slovakian ambassador had diplomatic immunity from an NIS 103,407 breach of contract lawsuit, the Tel Aviv District Court said on Sunday.
The ruling upheld on appeal a Tel Aviv Magistrate Court’s September 2012 ruling that the plaintiff, Yisrael Ratahoz, could not sue the ambassador, Ivo Hlavacek, and his wife, Slavka, for damages related to upkeep of their former residence in Herzliya Pituah.
According to the district court, the 1961 Vienna Convention, which Israel is a party to, and a 2008 Israeli law grant a general diplomatic immunity to officials serving in a foreign country from a variety of legal proceedings.
The court added that there is an exception to this immunity when dealing with legal proceedings regarding land.
However, this exception is invalid where the contract regarding the residence is clearly between the plaintiff and the official in his capacity as a foreign official, the court said.
In the case before the court, the contract was signed on March 1, 2007, but merely on behalf of Slovakia, and as the latest signor for a residence that was tied to whomever was Slovakia’s ambassador.
The rental period ended in December 2009. The contract was not signed by the defendant ambassador, but by his predecessor, who specifically signed in his capacity as the top representative of Slovakia in Israel.
In fact, although the prior ambassador signed, the agreement was officially between the country of Slovakia and the plaintiff, not the individual ambassador or his family member, who happened to occupy the residence at a given time.
The plaintiff sued the country of Slovakia in 2010, and in December 2012 settled his claim against Slovakia for 11,000 euros.
The rent had been $5,800 per month.
The court also noted that in light of recent rulings on similar issues in the US, failure to respect the diplomatic immunity of foreign officials in cases such as this one could boomerang and harm the status of Israeli diplomatic officials stationed in foreign countries.