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JackAdams's avatar

What are your views on the tradition of automatically granting all embassy and consulate personnel, "diplomatic immunity" from prosecution?

Asked by JackAdams (6497points) September 14th, 2008

I understand that the practice was instituted to prevent blackmail against the personnel, and that the only remedy a government has against them (if they have committed a crime), is to expel them from the country.

There have been case histories of embassy/consulate personnel commiting all kinds of crimes, from illegal narcotics to premeditated murder, with impunity.

I know that the reason the tradition exists, is to prevent an unfriendly nation from framing an Ambassador with phony “evidence,” but when a person can come into our country wearing that legal “armor plating,” get by with anything they wish, and the worst thing that can befall them is expulsion, then perhaps the rules on how this protocol is universally applied should be both re-examined and refined.

Your thoughts?

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6 Answers

sacaver's avatar

This is a tough one. I don’t especially like this policy, but I do understand the need for it. I think that without such a policy in place, normal diplomatic relations between countries would be perpetually strained, at best. I will agree that perhaps a dialogue should be opened on the current policy just to see if, perhaps, something better could be created. But I can’t think of an alternative. Anybody else?

sands's avatar

I think that it should be modified if possible. Several major US cities have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in traffic/parking violations because diplomats know that they don’t have to pay it. I’m sure that taxpayers foot these bills. Certain countries tend to be the main culprits re: these violations. There have also been cases of hit and runs, and theft, by the children of diplomats. In cases such as these, the waiver should be modified or lifted. Where there is clear, irrefutable evidence that criminal activity has indeed occurred on the part of diplomats and their families, they should be prosecuted. I remember a case where one diplomat’s son was a repeat offender. Eventually they somehow got him out of the country but the guy was a straight up criminal with many crimes to his name. I’m sure that he felt comfortable in the knowledge that the police wouldn’t be knocking on his door at night. I know of several people who have been arrested for less than what this guy did and he got to go home and sleep in his bed at night while not even holding a passport for the country in which he committed his crimes. It is ironic that taxpayers, citizens and residents of a country should be held accountable for legal transgressions when someone who has no real ties to that same country should not be. As things stand, a diplomat can murder me in my bed and nothing will happen to him. He may be asked to pack his bags but that’s about all. I don’t know how anyone can even begin to think that this is fair or even sensible. The tradition should at least be modified.

augustlan's avatar

I think maybe it should be modified to address certain “universal” crimes, such as murder. The other option would be to have agreements with the countries that state that after one is expelled from the country, the home country will prosecute the offender.

JackAdams's avatar

I wish for the three of you who have already posted, to know that I am indeed truly grateful, for all of the wisdom you are sharing with me.

Thanks to all of you!

charybdys's avatar

Well, if there’s certain evidence, a diplomat can be expelled, and then they could ask for extradition back to the country. With friendly countries, that should be quite possible. I don’t know if that’s happened much though, or with what kinds of crimes.

JackAdams's avatar

Several years ago (and I’m sorry that I cannot cite references for this) a relative of the Brazilian ambassador (son or nephew; I can’t recall) was discovered bringing illegal narcotic substances into the USA, and selling them.

I don’t know just how the CIA found out about this, because diplomatic pouches and luggage are, of course, exempt from US Customs searches, but evidence of the kid’s activities were in fact discovered, and the proof was formally presented to the ambassador, with a demand that the jerk be expelled. He was.

Naturally, nothing happened to him at all, either here, or in his own country, and he probably went to another Brazilian embassy in another nation, to do exactly the same things, with impunity (as well as immunity).

One time, I was visiting friends in DC, several years ago, and I went to a kind of “Bar & Grill,” located near Georgetown University, for some sandwiches and a Virgin Mary.

While there, one of the patrons became very unruly and began to smash glasses and dinnerware all over the place, while screaming obscenities at one of his dinner companions. Naturally, when the DC Police arrived on the scene, they attempted to arrest him on a variety of charges.

But before they could place handcuffs on him, he pulled out an official ID card, proving to the cops that he was attached to a foreign embassy, and that he had diplomatic immunity. The police then politely requested that he leave, and he did (probably to go to another drinking establishment).

I won’t mention the name of the foreign embassy to which he was connected, because, as I was told by my friends, the next day the ambassador of that embassy made a personal visit to the establishment, and wrote out a bank draft payable to owner of the restaurant, which more than covered all of the damages.

That was a nice gesture on the part of that ambassador, because it is my understanding that diplomatic immunity also prevents embassy personnel from being defendants in lawsuits, among other “perks.”

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