Diplomatic Immunity?

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merseymouth
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Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby merseymouth » 5 Oct 2019, 6:39pm

Hello there, Without wishing to prejudice any future possible proceedings what do folk think about the nature & extent of Diplomatic Immunity in this day & age?
It would appear that almost anyone with contact at an overseas embassy is granted such immunity with an extremely wide remit!
Surely this makes a mockery of relationships with other countries? Why so many folk being given almost carte blanche over personal responsibility, bad enough that millions are owed in parking fines with other more serious offenders being capable of avoiding due process for offences!
This has gone on for years, with a wide range of offences going unpunished, should such a practise be allowed to continue? Discuss. MM

djnotts
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby djnotts » 6 Oct 2019, 8:50am

Yes and no. While obviously anachronistic and can lead to major injustices, for individual countries to qualify the grades/levels of immunities could so easily be the thin end of a very large wedge. Where it is an offence to be "critical" of a Government or its actions it would be extremely damaging for say an Ambassador to be subject to such a law.

Psamathe
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby Psamathe » 6 Oct 2019, 10:08am

It is something I've been wondering about; not diplomatic immunity as I agree that diplomats need to be able to represent their country, but extending that immunity to non-diplomats (e.g. wives) who don't need to say sometimes controversial unpalatable things as they aren't representing their country.

But I also wonder if even those diplomats (excl. entourage) should abide at least by the laws of their own country e.g. hit somebody with a car and run away would be illegal in the US as well as the UK so "diplomatic immunity" should not be a license to behave outside any laws.

Ian

kwackers
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby kwackers » 6 Oct 2019, 10:47am

Psamathe wrote:It is something I've been wondering about; not diplomatic immunity as I agree that diplomats need to be able to represent their country, but extending that immunity to non-diplomats (e.g. wives) who don't need to say sometimes controversial unpalatable things as they aren't representing their country.

But I also wonder if even those diplomats (excl. entourage) should abide at least by the laws of their own country e.g. hit somebody with a car and run away would be illegal in the US as well as the UK so "diplomatic immunity" should not be a license to behave outside any laws.

Ian

The immunity needs to extend to their wives otherwise it opens up the potential to use them as hostages.

What I think I'd question is the range of offences over which immunity is granted - I mean traffic fines? If nothing else they should be paid for by the embassy.
Ultimately though it's an annoying but necessary thing to protect diplomats and their families from anything that could jail them (potentially on trumped up charges). You'd like to think that their countries of origin would make the effort to charge them if a genuine crime has been committed but history suggests not.

It's a sad fact that if diplomatic immunity was removed most countries would simply close their embassies to avoid escalation of tit for tat incarcerations which simply leaves the question are the embassies worth the cost?
Personally I'd say yes. Annoying as it is traffic fines don't amount to much in the general scheme of things and more serious stuff isn't that common.

merseymouth
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby merseymouth » 6 Oct 2019, 10:52am

Hi Psmathe, I was thinking along those lines exactly! Why should a cook or gardener be granted immunity passe?
As for the example you raise I couldn't possibly comment, Sub Judice :roll:
Matter to be discussed in camera, Kodak Brownie? MM

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Cunobelin
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby Cunobelin » 6 Oct 2019, 10:59am

I remember that there were literally thousands of unpaid motoring fines

The United States owes over £ 8,000,000 in parking alone!

The total owed altogether approaches some £100,000,000

Imagine what we could do with that

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Cunobelin
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby Cunobelin » 6 Oct 2019, 11:06am

2017
Driving without insurance
Finland 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Driving without insurance (and not in accordance with a licence)
Sierra Leone 1
Driving under the influence of alcohol
Austria 1
Commonwealth Secretariat 1
Possession of a firearm with intent to injure
Cambodia 1
Blackmail
Egypt 1
Sexual assault
Algeria 1
Rape (a)
Other (b) 2
Attempted rape (a)
Other (b) 1
Malicious communication (a)
Other (b) 1
(a) These are allegations made against the same person, who was subsequently expelled from the UK after a waiver of immunity was requested and rejected by the sending State.
(b) Details have been withheld because the number of diplomatic personnel in the mission concerned is so small that disclosure could lead to inaccurate speculation that other members of the mission were involved.
We also wish to record a further seven alleged offences.
Three allegations each of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime between 31 December 2009 and 1 January 2013, made against a former Cameroonian diplomat and two locally employed members of staff of the High Commission for the Republic of Cameroon. We did not record these alleged offences in previous Written Ministerial Statements because the cases were under investigation.
One additional count of driving without insurance made against a member of staff of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in 2016. This was not reported to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Psamathe
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby Psamathe » 6 Oct 2019, 11:26am

kwackers wrote:
Psamathe wrote:It is something I've been wondering about; not diplomatic immunity as I agree that diplomats need to be able to represent their country, but extending that immunity to non-diplomats (e.g. wives) who don't need to say sometimes controversial unpalatable things as they aren't representing their country.

But I also wonder if even those diplomats (excl. entourage) should abide at least by the laws of their own country e.g. hit somebody with a car and run away would be illegal in the US as well as the UK so "diplomatic immunity" should not be a license to behave outside any laws.

Ian

The immunity needs to extend to their wives otherwise it opens up the potential to use them as hostages.

What I think I'd question is the range of offences over which immunity is granted - I mean traffic fines? If nothing else they should be paid for by the embassy.
Ultimately though it's an annoying but necessary thing to protect diplomats and their families from anything that could jail them (potentially on trumped up charges). You'd like to think that their countries of origin would make the effort to charge them if a genuine crime has been committed but history suggests not.

It's a sad fact that if diplomatic immunity was removed most countries would simply close their embassies to avoid escalation of tit for tat incarcerations which simply leaves the question are the embassies worth the cost?
Personally I'd say yes. Annoying as it is traffic fines don't amount to much in the general scheme of things and more serious stuff isn't that common.

I can see your point but if immunity is extended to non-diplomatic people then why not travellers as well (who can also be used in "hostage" situations). I would not propose removing diplomatic immunity from diplomats, just the entourage who can reasonably be expected to obey the laws of the host state (just as any other visitors are expected to).

As a secondary thing I wonder if the range and scope of immunity for diplomatic staff does need looking at (though to be honest I'm not clear as to exactly what the scope of diplomatic immunity extends to for registered diplomats)

Ian

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NUKe
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby NUKe » 6 Oct 2019, 11:40am

Cunobelin wrote:I remember that there were literally thousands of unpaid motoring fines

The United States owes over £ 8,000,000 in parking alone!

The total owed altogether approaches some £100,000,000

Imagine what we could do with that

Probably pay our diplomats fine in other countries :D
NUKe
_____________________________________

kwackers
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby kwackers » 6 Oct 2019, 2:52pm

Psamathe wrote:I can see your point but if immunity is extended to non-diplomatic people then why not travellers as well (who can also be used in "hostage" situations). I would not propose removing diplomatic immunity from diplomats, just the entourage who can reasonably be expected to obey the laws of the host state (just as any other visitors are expected to).

As a secondary thing I wonder if the range and scope of immunity for diplomatic staff does need looking at (though to be honest I'm not clear as to exactly what the scope of diplomatic immunity extends to for registered diplomats)

Ian

I think the line is when they're employed by the embassy (or obvs are visiting diplomats + entourage).
If that's where the line is now then I'm good with that.

I suspect your average nation has anything from a few dozen to a few hundred employees in a typical embassy.
If they had no rights over and above citizens then there are more than a few nations that would have no compunction detaining them all.
It's obviously considered more than bad form, even Pol Pot allowed the embassy staff to leave.

drossall
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby drossall » 6 Oct 2019, 8:16pm

It's a two-way process. Anything done to undermine it creates risks for our diplomats elsewhere, however unhappy we may be in specific cases.

Tangled Metal
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby Tangled Metal » 6 Oct 2019, 10:21pm

Out of curiosity, why do families need to be with them? I know right to family life or something will be the answer. As an idea, if diplomats want family with them make it their choice but waiver the diplomatic immunity when local legal authorities arrest them for something that has equivalency in your own country. Immunity isn't removed but justice is available in the country the crime was committed.

There's some country assignments families don't join the diplomats in. The cushy places to be posted you bet three families go with them. So perhaps those countries are unlikely to try to hold families hostage. Selective immunity anyone? Perk of being posted in London or Paris is potentially clear for diplomats and families. Give them the jeopardy of prosecution to encourage law abiding behaviour?

kwackers
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby kwackers » 7 Oct 2019, 8:54am

Tangled Metal wrote:Give them the jeopardy of prosecution to encourage law abiding behaviour?

As opposed to the jeopardy of being falsely accused in order to gain leverage?
Think it won't happen? Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe should be proof otherwise.

The game of politics is played for high stakes. Whilst you could insist families don't go sometimes these postings last years.
Without families other pressures come into play, folk on their own, attractive spies. There's been no shortage of such stories over the years.
It's a minefield.

In theory a country can waive diplomatic immunity for members of its staff but it doesn't happen often and usually when it does there's a whole lot of bargaining going on behind the scenes.

Tangled Metal
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby Tangled Metal » 7 Oct 2019, 9:05am

I'm not talking about giving away immunity for such protective reasons as rogue states like Iran. I'm talking about countries with rule of law equivalent or more honest than your own nation's.

As I would have it that if families, perhaps even diplomats themselves, break a local law that's got an equivalent in three diplomat's corny then the immunity will be waived. Basically let them know that if you break local laws on the job for your country you're protected by immunity. If you're in a country with poor records of political interference in the judicial or criminal investigation system then you've got immunity. If you commit an offence that's not part of your diplomatic role in a country with similar or better standards in the rule of law then you're going to get help from your country as a private citizen but you're not getting immunity.

Put the rules up front and in the open.

Tbh though would you take your family to Iran? I seriously doubt they'd be too bothered by immunity if it worked in their interests to ignore it. Although they'd probably use proxies and try to look innocent.

djnotts
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Re: Diplomatic Immunity?

Postby djnotts » 7 Oct 2019, 9:22am

"Tbh though would you take your family to Iran?"

Immediately post-Revolution, when "relations" suspended (we had a Charge D'Affairs, not an Ambassador and technically our address was British Interests Section, Royal Swedish Embassy), only the Ambassador-by-another-name was as best I recall from my stay there accompanied by his spouse. Then and I suspect not uncommon it was the Local(ly) Engaged stafff who were most at risk. One I met had spent 12 months in Evin Jail. I think that the immunity rule has to be absolute not conditional if one country is to engage with another.

[Edited for typo!]