Diplomats can be tried for ‘grave’ criminal acts despite immunity, say Pak experts

February 2nd, 2011 - 6:33 pm ICT by ANI  

Lahore, Feb 2(ANI): Although staff members of foreign embassies enjoy several privileges and immunity in host countries, they can be tried and convicted under the Vienna Convention in a grave criminal case, according to legal experts.

There are seven Articles of the Vienna Convention- Article number 9, 22, 27, 29, 32, 37, and 41- which address diplomatic immunity for any diplomatic mission directly, the Daily Times quoted the experts, as saying.

Article 41 clearly states that a consular officer shall not be liable to arrest except in the case of a grave crime, while under Article 32, the home country could waive its diplomat’s right of immunity, they added.

It is noteworthy that the US Embassy in Pakistan had recently called for the immediate release of the double murder-accused US diplomat, who the embassy said was “unlawfully detained by authorities in Lahore.”

“On January 27, the diplomat acted in self-defence when confronted by two armed men on motorcycles. The diplomat had every reason to believe that the armed men meant him bodily harm. Minutes earlier, the two men, who had criminal backgrounds, had robbed money and valuables at gunpoint from a Pakistani citizen in the same area,” said a US Embassy press release.

“When detained, the U.S. diplomat identified himself to police as a diplomat and repeatedly requested immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Local police and senior authorities failed to observe their legal obligation to verify his status with either the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore or the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. Furthermore, the diplomat was formally arrested and remanded into custody, which is a violation of international norms and the Vienna Convention, to which Pakistan is a signatory,” it added.

Advocates Javed Bashir and Imran Shah said that although diplomatic agents and embassies’ administrative and technical staff members had a right to immunity from criminal jurisdiction, it did not mean that authorities of the host country were stopped from acting against them in grave criminal cases. Quoting from the book ‘Foreign Service Assignment Notebook: What Do I Do Now?’, published by the US Department of State and Foreign Service Institute Transition Center in 2006, they said: “A member of the administrative and technical staff would ordinarily have no immunity from a private lawsuit for failure to pay personal debts or for compensation for damage to the property of a local citizen alleged to have occurred while the individual was off duty.”About lifting immunity rights, the experts referred to the book and said that an individual whose immunity was waived had no standing under the international law to protest this determination.

The US State Department requested waivers of immunity from criminal jurisdiction in almost all cases involving foreign personnel accredited to the US, in order to ensure that the proper course of justice proceeds, they added. (ANI)

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