Appeal Dismissed: English Courts on Foreign Judgments

Date01 August 2018
Published date01 August 2018

In late 2017 the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in Mengiste v. Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray [2017] EWCA 1326 (Civ). The Court seized the opportunity to firmly espouse that the English courts will refuse to act as a supranational appellate court for appeals of foreign judgments in which the case has little or no connection with England and Wales.


The case of Mengiste involved a dispute between parties to a joint venture taking place in Ethiopia. Litigation was commenced in Ethiopia against Mr Mengiste and others for the repayment of sums due as a result of non-delivery of goods which the Appellants had agreed to deliver to the Respondents.

The case went to the Regional Supreme Court of Tigray, of which Judge Mehretab was a member. Throughout the litigation, Mr Gebrue of the Respondents was married to Judge Mehretab. While Judge Mehretab was involved in numerous parts of the overall case, such as sitting on the judicial panel which granted a freezing injunction against the Appellants, she ultimately did not take part in the substantive trial during January 2001 in which Mr Mengiste was found liable for not delivering the goods in issue.

In 2004 the Appellants made an application for review of the 2001 judgment under Article 6 of the Ethiopian Civil Procedure Code (CPC) on the basis that the Appellants had discovered new evidence. Judge Mehretab was a member of the panel who dismissed that application.

Following their unsuccessful spate of litigation in Ethiopia, in 2010 the Appellants brought proceedings in England, alleging that the Ethiopian judgments had been obtained by fraud. The Respondents applied to the English High Court for a stay of proceedings on the ground that England was not a convenient forum, given that all the parties were Ethiopian, the property was in Ethiopia, the law applicable to the contracts was Ethiopian and the wrongful acts took place there.

The Appellants contended that they could not obtain a fair trial in Ethiopia; however, Smith J decided to grant the stay on the basis that no cogent evidence was provided demonstrating a likelihood of an unfair trial. The Appellants thereafter applied to the Ethiopian courts for a review of the 2004 judgment on the basis that the Appellants had new evidence and that Judge Mehretab was married to one of the Respondents.

In October 2013, the Tigray Supreme Court dismissed the review application, holding that Article 6 CPC was...

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