4. Privileges and Immunities

31 Oct

Privileges and Immunities

1. At present, the diplomatic privileges and immunities that States grant each other through their representatives are prerequisite for property for proper performance of the delicate and essential functions usually carried out by diplomatic agents on behalf of their presidents (or Heads of State) and Ministers of Foreign Affairs without intermediaries in the international arena.

2. Privileges and immunities originated as a required protection function enforceable by diplomatic agents. In international practice there have existed for centuries certain privileges and immunities that belong to the heads of state while visiting other States.

3. These privileges and immunities also apply Ministers of Foreign Affairs when they are travelling abroad, and  although no conventional standards have been established, it is evident that they enjoy the same privileges as the ambassadors, who are their subordinates in the domestic situation and have precedence over them in the order of protocol.

3. Privileges and immunities for members of the diplomatic mission are set out in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, whose preamble states that such immunities and privileges are granted not to benefit individuals but to ensure the effective discharge of the functions of diplomatic missions as representatives of States.

4. Under that Convention, for official acts performed in the exercise of their functions, diplomatic agents enjoy a special privileges including immunity from jurisdiction, which is the effect of suspending the laws of the States to which they are accredited, or exemptions of the administrative courts, civil and criminal matters, both national and local, including exemptions from arrests, litigation, civil lawsuits, subpoenas and legal penalties.

5. In the same vein, the right of inviolability guaranteed to a duly accredited diplomatic representative is that no one can steal his residence, his means of transport, offices or files, nor enter his residence or office without his permission. Unless there is a waiver by the sending State to the immunity of a diplomatic agent, he may not be arrested or tried, nor shall he be impaired in any way against his person, his dignity and freedom.

6. These privileges are also granted to the diplomatic agent’s family living under the same roof and who are not nationals of the receiving country. Similarly, he has the right to inviolability of the administrative and technical staff of the mission and service staff, whose members are not nationals of the receiving State and not permanent residents of the same.

7. There are also exemptions and privileges, as defined by international conventions and domestic legislation of States, and preserved by the principle of reciprocity referred to as courtesy privileges. These exemptions and privileges are granted especially as it relates to the payment of taxes and customs duties and the right to not having their luggage checked by custom authorities in their country of post.

8. The diplomatic mission should be exempt from all taxes in the receiving state tax. Likewise, the sending States and the chief of mission are exempt from all taxes and levies national, regional or municipal, levies on the premises of the mission if the State is the owner or tenant, except in those cases that represent payment for public or private services and not related to the exercise their official capacity. The regime applicable to consular officials, i.e., the facilities, privileges and immunities enjoyed are listed in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. 6.

9. Others that enjoy privileges and immunities in this area are representatives of international organisations as the international officials have to respect conventional rules and bilateral agreements between their agencies and the State concerned or the host receiving State.

© 2012, by Odeen Ishmael

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