The Charge d’Affaires
1. In the absence of a head of mission from the country of post, the mission appoints a charge d’affaires, a term used for preserving the tradition of using French for certain aspects of diplomacy.
2. In the field of diplomatic law there are two categories of charge d’affaires. These are the “ad hoc” and the “ad interim (a.i)”
3. The charge d’affaires ad hoc is a “permanent” head of mission unlike the charge d’affaires ad interim who, obviously, is a “temporary” head of mission.
4. A charge d’affaires ad hoc is appointed when the sending State desires to maintain a mission lower in category than a normal embassy for an extended period either for political reasons or protocol. This official is accredited by a letter signed by the Foreign Minister of the sending country to be delivered in a simple ceremony by the official to the Foreign Minister of the receiving State for accreditation. However, before the official travels to the receiving State, the sending State must first obtain the agrément from the former.
5. The diplomatic mission accredits a charge d’affaires a.i. temporarily in the receiving State or international organisation by sending a diplomatic note to the Foreign Ministry of the receiving State (or to the executive head of the international organisation). Due to the principle “non potest legatus delegare,” the charge d’affaires a.i. cannot transfer the position to another official in the mission.
6. On the return of the ambassador, the position of charge d’affaires a.i.is terminated, and the usual practice is for the mission to send a diplomatic note to the Foreign Ministry of the receiving State informing of the ambassador’s presence at post.
7. The charge d’affaires a.i. is a member of the diplomatic staff of the mission who occupies the position of head of the Mission during the ambassador’s temporary absence, whether for vacation or official travel, or in the period between the final departure of the ambassador and the presentation of credentials of his successor. In certain cases, a charge d’affaires a.i. may also be appointed when the ambassador is absent for a lengthy period due to illness, even though he is not away from the host State.
8. This type of charge d’affaires, despite its interim nature, may perform functions for long periods, especially when the sending State has “called home” the ambassador for an undetermined period (to express displeasure or because of significant disagreement with the receiving State) among other reasons.
9. For countries with a rigorous diplomatic service, the position of charge d’affaires a.i. is usually performed by the official of the Mission holding the rank just below the level of ambassador, by the career official with the highest ranking in the mission. However, there have been cases of governments appointing “politically loyal” officials in missions to such positions even though they might not have held the highest ranking.
10. A military attaché is not usually appointed to the position as charge d’affaires a.i.
Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama