The embassies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Morocco are ignoring the decisions of the Dutch judges. They refuse to pay wages or re-employ redundant Dutch workers, even though the court has ordered them to do so. As a result, employees will be left without tens of thousands of euros in wages or severance pay. This is shown by studies NRC, who spoke with former embassy staff and gained access to dozens of documents, email exchanges and audio recordings.
Diplomatic immunity makes it virtually impossible to enforce Dutch judgments. It is not possible to confiscate the embassy property if it does not pay. According to the FNV union, the situation leads to additional vulnerability for employees, as ambassadors can lay off employees overnight without consequences.
An employee of the Egyptian embassy’s commercial office was fired because her child was unexpectedly born early. Eventually he was allowed to return, but then he was thrown out again. The Dutch court ruled on his behalf at first instance and on appeal. The embassy has to re-approve him and continue to pay, but so far it has refused to do so. Now it is about 60,000 euros.
The same thing happened to two employees of the Saudi embassy. The driver has been entitled to his salary with interest since 2016, but four attempts to raise money through the bailiff failed: the bailiffs do not go to the embassy area. According to the judge, the guard of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia was also dismissed unjustifiably and is entitled to compensation of more than 30,000 euros. There is no charge.
After heated discussions with the Kuwaiti ambassador, an embassy employee was fired in 2019. Wrong, according to a Dutch court, but the embassy does not pay. That is now around € 40,000 with fines. According to his lawyer, the unjustly dismissed man from the Moroccan embassy is now entitled to more than € 170,000, but even then no payment has been made.
The refusal of embassies causes financial problems and stress for their former employees. “The only thing that really helps in these cases is that the Netherlands is talking to diplomats and embassies about their behavior,” says Marcelle Buitendam, director of the FNV union. “They just follow the rules here. Because now the embassy staff are like servants who can be thrown into the street like old rubbish.
Read the research report: The embassy does not pay much attention to the Dutch court
Respect for the justice system
Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdul-Rahman Al-Otaibi says he respects the Dutch legal system, but also notes that “some workers are abusing labor laws.” The embassy’s lawyer, Ejder Köse, believes it is “the responsibility of the claimant” to take action now that payment has not been made. Now that the bailiff cannot seize the goods from the embassy, there are “other ways and means” for the bailiff to enforce the payment, according to Könen. He does not answer the question of what resources these are.
The Saudi embassy says it has provided transitional compensation to former employees. The embassy did not recognize the bailiff’s documents because their disclosure did not meet “standards of international law.” The Moroccan and Egyptian embassies did not answer questions NRC.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that the Netherlands considers it a “high priority” to solve such problems, for example by formally speaking to the ambassadors or raising the issue with the ambassador’s boss in the capital. “The judge’s decision simply has to be followed,” said Tessa Terpstra, the ministry’s deputy director of host affairs. “But if you sever diplomatic relations, you can no longer do anything for the Dutch in trouble.”
Inviolable Embassy pp. 6-9
A version of this article also appeared in the NRC on the morning of 17 November 2021