Classified American embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks cannot be used as evidence in English and Welsh courts because they contravene the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic immunity, High Court judges have ruled.
The decision by Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Mitting has dealt a blow to litigants hoping to use the confidential documents in court cases.
In a test case, lawyers representing exiled islanders from the Chagos archipelago had planned to exploit secret documents as part of their legal battle over the islanders’ right to return home.
However, a lawyer acting for the FCO argued that under the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, which incorporates the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations into domestic law, the alleged cable, or copies of it held by newspapers, were inadmissible. Article 24 of the Vienna Convention states: “The archives and documents of the mission shall be inviolable at any time and wherever they may be.”
The case is the first one resulting from the leak of classified US cables in which UK officials had been ordered to appear.
Lawyers acting for the islanders said the decision to exclude the cables from evidence had “global ramifications” that went beyond the individual case.