Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Diplomatic immunity

attempt to abolish diplomatic immunity would only worsen the issue as countries would continue to dispute the legality of any action taken against their diplomats. Thus, it may not be appropriate or even helpful to abolish diplomatic immunity, as it seems likely that it would be followed by chaos between countries and diplomats potentially being threatened. Yet it would be a narrow account to look only at potential problems with removing diplomatic immunity and not examine how broken the system may actually be. The 1961 Vienna Convention was drafted in 1961, potentially making it somewhat outdated, as since then developments in communication and technology have meant that diplomats are a lot more connected to their home country and at reduced risk of being isolated: diplomats may not require the same level of protection as was thought necessary in 1961. Another compelling and pertinent reason for the abolition of diplomatic immunity is to ensure that justice can be delivered for horrendous crimes committed by diplomats. While in some cases where diplomatic immunity is used it only amounts to avoiding minor fines for parking, there have been severe crimes, such as human trafficking, child pornography, torture and slavery, committed by diplomats who have evaded prosecution. Diplomatic immunity also extends to ‘diplomatic bags’ where they cannot be searched or taken from the diplomats which, while designed to protect important documents from tampering, has notably allowed and even encouraged the smuggling of illegal drugs and gold. 9 All these issues together demonstrate diplomatic immunity being abused and falling short of upholding justice. However, these prior noted problems may not necessarily demand abolition; there is instead potential for alternative amendments, which should aim to mainta in the diplomat’s functions while ensur ing justice. One possible solution would be to merely limit the scope of protection that diplomatic immunity covers so that, if sufficient evidence is provided, they could be charged for particularly severe actions including murder and corruption without the formal removal of immunity by the diplomat’s home nation. This would be a good way to tackle extreme crimes as in the previously mentioned case of Basfar v Wong. Diplomats who are repeatedly accused of committing crimes could also have their diplomatic immunity revoked. This would deter diplomats from ignoring the laws of the country and, for example, help avoid the large amount of unpaid parking fines by diplomats. 10 In addition, diplomatic immunity could be made to only apply to certain higher-ranking staff in the embassy, but not their family members, and potentially only when they have been conducting embassy functions. By imposing these limits, situations such as Mrs Sacoolas evading her criminal charges for killing Mr Dunn could be prevented. However, promising though such proposals seem, international agreement is likely to be difficult. To conclude, I believe that although diplomatic immunity’s primary purpose is worth upholding, the execution and reality of how it is being used currently is simply not acceptable. Nevertheless, to abolish diplomatic immunity completely would be a mistake, in my opinion, as even though it is flawed, the role it serves in facilitating protected discussions between nations through their diplomats is extremely important to our society. Thus, it needs to be changed, and I would propose that the best course of action would be to introduce a permanent international court – presided over by impartial judges from the UN

9 Wikipedia. Diplomatic bag. Consulted: 2/8/22. 10 See note 5.


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