Section 1 of the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984 provides that if a foreign law applies in English proceedings, then that foreign law will apply to any limitation/time bar arguments too. The short point in this case was whether that principle applied where the foreign procedural law (and not its limitation law) has an effect on limitation.
In this case, Iraqi law provided for a three year limitation period for bringing a claim, but the claimants sought to argue that that period had been suspended because of a provision of the Iraqi Civil Code (which states that the limitation period is suspended where an impediment makes it impossible for the claimant to bring his claim). At first instance, the judge found that the claims were not time barred.
The Court of Appeal has now allowed the appeal from that decision. Section 4(1) of the 1984 Act provides that "references in this Act to the law of any country … relating to limitation shall, in relation to any matter, be construed as references to so much of the relevant law of that country as (in any manner) makes provision with respect to a limitation period". It was held that the impediment to bringing a claim in this case was a procedural one, rather than part of the Iraqi law on limitation, and hence was not to be given effect by the English court. As Vos LJ put it "Neither a provision for immunity nor a provision for exclusive jurisdiction, as I have said, makes any provision with respect to a limitation period… Whilst the provisions may, as a result, relate indirectly to the interruption of the limitation period, that does not make them provisions with respect to a limitation period, which they are also required to be if they are to fall within the section 4(1) definition".