Diplomatic Immunity: Notes for UPSC

Diplomatic Immunity is a principle of international law by which certain foreign government officials are not subject to the jurisdiction of local courts and other authorities for both their official and to a large extent their personal activities.

Aspirants would find this topic very helpful in the IAS Exam.

What is Diplomatic Immunity?

Diplomatic immunity is a legal immunity that grants diplomats safe passage and protects the from prosecution or any other form of legal proceedings from laws of the host country. It however does not stop the host country in expelling the diplomat in question. Following the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, diplomatic was codified and ratified by most of the countries of the world. Nowadays many principles of diplomatic immunity are considered be customary. Diplomatic immunity was developed to allow for the maintenance of government relations, including during periods of difficulties and armed conflict.

Who are eligible for Diplomatic Immunity?

The people working in the following positions and organisations are eligible for diplomatic immunity.

  1. Members of Diplomatic Missions – They are the main link of communication between the host country and the country that sends them. Hence the staff of diplomatic missions are provided the highest levels of immunity in the host country.
  2. Diplomatic Agents – They enjoy complete immunity from the host country’s criminal jurisdiction.
  3. Members of administrative and technical staff of diplomatic missions.
  4. Members of service staff of diplomatic missions.
  5. Personnel on temporary duty at diplomatic missions.
  6. Members of Consular Posts.
  7. Members working in International Organisations.

Which are the International Rules that Provide Diplomatic Immunity?

The immunity granted to Diplomatic Staff and their families are formulated in the laws listed below.

  1. 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR)
  2. 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR)
  3. Consular Relations Act 1968.

Give Some Examples of Misuse of  Diplomatic Immunity?

There are many examples in the past where cover provided by diplomatic immunity has been grossly misused.

  1. Saudi diplomat was accused of raping 2 Nepalese women in India, left without facing any trial.
  2. In 1967, a Burmese Ambassador shot dead his wife in Sri Lanka, he was not prosecuted by the law as he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
  3. In 1981, son of Ghanian United Nations (UN) diplomat was accused of committing various crimes like rapes and robberies in New York.

Give Some Examples of Terminating Bilateral Relations Between Countries over Violation of Diplomatic Immunity?

In the history of international relations, bilateral ties between nations were terminated due to violations of diplomatic immunity on 2 occasions which are given below.

  1. Diplomatic ties between Libya and Britain were terminated after a Libyan staffer shot dead a British policewoman in 1984.
  2. In 1979, the hostage crisis of US diplomats in Iran led to termination of diplomatic ties between US and Iran.

The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2021.

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