Diplomatic immunity – Saudi diplomat rape case

Rules regulating the conduct of diplomatic agents is codified under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations (1961). They are:

  • Under Article 29 of the Vienna Convention the Diplomat enjoys complete immunity against arrest or detention.
  • Under Article 29, the person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity
  • A diplomat enjoys immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.
  • The immunity of a diplomat from the jurisdiction of the receiving State (India) does not exempt him from the jurisdiction of the sending State (Saudi Arabia) .
  • Waiver of immunity – The immunity of diplomatic agents may be waived by the sending State. While waiver of immunity in criminal cases is not common, it is routinely sought but rarely granted.
So the only option with India is to declare the diplomat a Persona non grata.
India has a moral and legal responsibility to get to the bottom of the case. At the same time it is time for the international community to re-visit the Vienna Convention, which offers a high degree of legal protection to diplomats and their families in the countries where they are posted. The convention was meant to enable diplomats to carry out their duties without obstruction in the cold war environment. Using its provisions to save diplomats facing charges of heinous crimes such as enslavement and rape cannot be justified under any circumstances.



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