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Cases of diplomatic immunity and diplomatic tension

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  11 Sep 2015 12:00 AM GMT

In 2003, the then Senegalese envoy’s son in New Delhi was accused of murdering his driver, but police could not pick him up for questioning as he was protected under the Vien Convention that provides diplomatic immunity to serving diplomats and their immediate family.

The Vien Convention deals with the privileges of a diplomatic mission and diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country. This forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity.

In the current case relating to allegations of rape against a Saudi Arabian diplomat, police in Gurgaon said they will proceed in the case keeping in mind the Vien Convention.

The exterl affairs ministry has sought a report from police, and could step in if the police require to interrogate the diplomat, who has been accused by two Nepalese women of rape. The women have also accused the diplomat’s wife and daughter of harassment.

However, the diplomat and his family are protected under the 1961 Vien Convention on Diplomatic Relations which says diplomats “shall enjoy immunity from the crimil jurisdiction of the receiving state. He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction”.

In May 2003, then Senegal’s ambassador to India, Ahmed el Mansour Diop, denied that his son Mansur Ali was responsible for killing their driver, Dilwar Singh.

Diop had in a statement denied the allegation that his 24-year-old son had killed their driver at a five-star hotel.

Ali had reportedly found Dilawar Singh in an inebriated state and asked for the car keys, telling the driver he was not in a state to drive and he would drive it himself.

A quarrel followed during which Dilawar Singh is said to have hit his head on a hard object and died.

Police registered a case on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against Ali, who was not arrested on the ground that he may enjoy diplomatic immunity.

In 2013, the arrest and strip search of India’s deputy consul in New York, Devyani Khobragade, had kicked up a storm in India and led to tensions between India and the US. Khobragade was accused of visa fraud and underpaying her maid.

Khobragade was governed under the Vien Convention on Consular Relations, which provided her limited immunity.

India transferred Khobragade to its permanent mission in the UN to provide her full diplomatic immunity. She was later moved to India. But in a diplomatic “reciprocal” move, India stopped all commercial activities at the popular American Community Association Club, where diplomats and their families would hang out, the extra police barricades outside the US embassy were removed, and the special privileges offered to US officers at consulates were withdrawn, among other measures.

In a rather famous case in neighbouring Pakistan, in 2011, Central Intelligence Agency agent Raymond Davis was arrested by the Pakistani authorities after he shot dead two armed men in a Lahore street.

The US maintained that Davis’s rights as a diplomat were violated by his arrest. He was later let off by a Pakistani court after coughing up ‘blood money’ to the relatives of the killed men. The audacious shooting in broad daylight and the US claiming Davis was protected by diplomatic immunity had strained ties between the two countries.

In January this year, India’s then high commissioner to New Zealand Ravi Thapar was recalled over allegations that his wife had assaulted their chef.

Police were denied permission to interview both Thapar and his wife Sharmila. Violation of the Vien Convention can have global implications. The convention protects the institution of diplomacy from local laws, and it is globally accepted, say experts. IANS

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