Diplomatic immunity

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Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country's laws, although they may still be expelled.wikipedia
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Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

Vienna Convention1961 Vienna Convention1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
Modern diplomatic immunity was codified as international law in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) which has been ratified by all but a handful of nations.
This forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity.

Legal immunity

immunityimmunity from prosecutionimmunities
Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country's laws, although they may still be expelled.
The most notable forms of legal immunity are diplomatic immunity, judicial immunity, and witness immunity.


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Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country's laws, although they may still be expelled.
They usually have diplomatic immunity, and in their official travels they usually use a diplomatic passport or, for UN officials, a United Nations laissez-passer.

Iran hostage crisis

Iranian hostage crisishostage crisisAmerican hostages
More recently, the Iran hostage crisis is universally considered a violation of diplomatic immunity.
The Americans saw the hostage-taking as an egregious violation of the principles of international law, such as the Vienna Convention, which granted diplomats immunity from arrest and made diplomatic compounds inviolable.


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It is possible for the official's home country to waive immunity; this tends to happen only when the individual has committed a serious crime, unconnected with their diplomatic role (as opposed to, say, allegations of spying), or has witnessed such a crime.
When Ames was arrested by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), he faced life in prison; his contact, who had diplomatic immunity, was declared persona non grata and taken to the airport.

Persona non grata

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However, the State Department still has the right to expel the diplomat.
Being so named is the most serious form of censure which a country can apply to foreign diplomats, who are otherwise protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and other normal kinds of prosecution.

Murder of Yvonne Fletcher

Yvonne Fletcher1984 Libyan Embassy SiegeLibyan Embassy Siege
On-duty police officer Yvonne Fletcher was murdered in London in 1984, by a person shooting from inside the Libyan embassy during a protest.
The protection of diplomats and their official premises is based on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, an international treaty; it was signed by 141 countries, including the UK and Libya.


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Some passports attest to the bearer having a status as a diplomat or other official, entitled to rights and privileges such as immunity from arrest or prosecution.

2014 Malaysian diplomat indecent assault case

Mohammed Rizalman Bin Ismail
In June 2014, the New Zealand government confirmed that Mohammed Rizalman Bin Ismail from Malaysia, aged in his 30s and employed at Malaysia's High Commission in Wellington, had invoked diplomatic immunity when faced with charges of burglary and assault with intent to rape after allegedly following a 21-year-old woman to her home.
Rizalman claimed diplomatic immunity and was allowed to return to Malaysia on 22 May 2014.

Vienna Convention on Consular Relations

Vienna ConventionConsular Relationstreaty
Under the Vienna Convention, diplomatic immunity does not apply to civil actions relating to vehicular accidents, but in 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that, since he was using his vehicle for consular purposes, Kent could not be sued civilly.
The treaty provides for diplomatic immunity.

United Nations laissez-passer

Laissez-PasserUnited Nationslaissez passer
The United Nations system (including its agencies, which comprise the most recognizable international bodies such as the World Bank and many others) has a relatively standardized form of limited immunities for staff traveling on U.N. laissez-passer; diplomatic immunity is often granted to the highest-ranking officials of these agencies.
Most officials hold a blue UNLP (up to D-1 level), which is similar in legal status to a service passport (with limited diplomatic immunity).

Andrey Matveyev

Andrey MatveevAndrei Matveev
The British Parliament first guaranteed diplomatic immunity to foreign ambassadors in 1709, after Count Andrey Matveyev, a Russian resident in London, had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse by British bailiffs.
Despite subsequent apologies from the Parliament and the Queen, the diplomatic corps in London raised such an outcry over the incident that it led the Parliament to adopt the Act Preserving the Privileges of Ambassadors (April 21, 1709), the first-ever act to guarantee diplomatic immunity.


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The incident caused a breakdown in diplomatic relations until Libya admitted "general responsibility" in 1999.
This sanctity has come to be known as diplomatic immunity.

Raymond Allen Davis incident

Raymond DavisRaymond Davis incidentRaymond Allen Davis
In January 2011 in Lahore, Pakistan, American embassy employee Raymond Allen Davis shot and killed two Pakistani civilians, while a third man was struck and killed by a U.S. consulate car responding to the shooting.
Although the U.S. government contended that he was protected by diplomatic immunity because of his employment with the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Davis was jailed and criminally charged by Pakistani authorities with double murder and the illegal possession of a firearm.


Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiaryambassadorscultural ambassador
He stayed in his charge as ambassador until his death due to another traffic collision in Seoul in 2014.
The host country typically allows the ambassador control of specific territory called an embassy, whose territory, staff, and vehicles are generally afforded diplomatic immunity in the host country.

United Nations

UNU.N.the United Nations
In particular, New York City, the home of the United Nations Headquarters, regularly protests to the United States Department of State about non-payment of parking tickets because of diplomatic status.
On the basis of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, the UN and its agencies are immune from the laws of the countries where they operate, safeguarding the UN's impartiality with regard to the host and member countries.

Consul (representative)

consulconsulateConsul General
On 27 October 1998, in Vladivostok, Russia, Douglas Kent, the American Consul General to Russia, was involved in a car accident that left a young man, Alexander Kashin, disabled.
Contrary to popular belief, many of the staff of consulates may be career diplomats, but they do not generally have diplomatic immunity unless they are also accredited as such.

Death of Harry Dunn

Harry Dunnhit and killedkilled in a motorcycling accident
On August 27, 2019, Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American National Security Agency employee working in the UK was a suspect in a traffic accident involving 19-year-old Harry Dunn in Croughton, Northamptonshire, England.
The collision became the centre of a diplomatic incident after the United States government advised then helped Sacoolas to flee the country claiming diplomatic immunity.

Grace Mugabe

GraceGrace MarufuAmai Grace Mugabe
In August 2017, Zimbabwe first lady, Grace Mugabe, invoked diplomatic immunity on 15th August after assault charges were laid against her by a South African model.
She was subsequently granted immunity from prosecution 'under Chinese diplomatic rules' because of her status as Mugabe's wife.

United States Department of State

State DepartmentU.S. State DepartmentDepartment of State
In particular, New York City, the home of the United Nations Headquarters, regularly protests to the United States Department of State about non-payment of parking tickets because of diplomatic status. If a person with immunity is alleged to have committed a crime or faces a civil lawsuit, the State Department asks the home country to waive immunity of the alleged offender so that the complaint can be moved to the courts.

Teo Peter

On 3 December 2004, in Bucharest, Romania, Christopher Van Goethem, an American Marine serving his embassy, ran a red traffic signal, collided with a taxi, and killed popular Romanian musician Teo Peter.
The Romanian government requested the American government lift his diplomatic immunity, which it has refused to do.

Bundesautobahn 555

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For example, the Autobahn 555 in Cologne, Germany was nicknamed the "Diplomatenrennbahn" (Diplomat's Raceway), when Bonn was the capital of West Germany, because of the numerous diplomats that used to speed through the highway under diplomatic immunity.
Bonn locals, however, use that term for the B 9 where diplomats regularly sped under protection of diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic mission

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Right after the accident, he drove directly into the Lebanese embassy compound and refused to cooperate with the local police investigation, claiming his diplomatic immunity.
Diplomats themselves still retain full diplomatic immunity, and (as an adherent to the Vienna Convention) the host country may not enter the premises of the mission without permission of the represented country, even to put out a fire.

2009 Singapore Romanian diplomat incident

Silviu Ionescudrunk-driving hit-and-run accident
On 15 December 2009, in Singapore, the Romanian chargé d'affaires, Silviu Ionescu, was allegedly behind a drunk-driving hit-and-run accident that killed a 30-year-old man and seriously injured two others.
The fact that Ionescu could not be brought back to Singapore for trial due to diplomatic immunity and the absence of an extradition treaty between Singapore and Romania has triggered much public outrage in Singapore.

Diplomatic corps

Dean of the Diplomatic CorpsCorps Diplomatiquedeanship of that country's diplomatic corps
This may allow the diplomatic corps to negotiate as a group with the authorities of the receiving country.
In practical terms, the dean of the diplomatic corps may have a role to play in negotiating with local authorities regarding the application of aspects of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and diplomatic immunity, such as the payment of certain fees or taxes, since the receiving country is required "not to discriminate between states".