Would diplomatic immunity allow a consul to kill someone and get away with it?

  • I'm asking this because a Wikipedia's page states that:

    ...diplomatic immunity leads to some unfortunate results; protected diplomats have violated laws of the host country and that country has been essentially limited to informing the diplomat's nation that the diplomat is no longer welcome...

    So, for example, if a U.S. consul kills someone in England (s)he will not be arrested and judged in the host country like everybody else?

    Consuls do not have diplomatic immunity; consular immunity is more limited.

  • Peteris

    Peteris Correct answer

    6 years ago

    In theory, yes

    In theory, yes, a diplomat can kill someone, refuse to be arrested and return to their host country. In practice, that does not prevent them from being judged. There are multiple cases where diplomats have caused deaths, e.g. in drunk driving. The usual result is that they actually are released due to diplomatic immunity, but afterwards either the country revokes their immunity and they're given to the host country for normal proceedings, or they are judged for the same event back home.

    The intent is rather obvious—it is easy for a government to accuse someone of a crime, and we want diplomats (and opposition politicians—parliamentary immunity in many countries works in a similar way) to be protected from detention because of such accusations. It doesn't mean that diplomats are allowed to commit crime—it means that their home country is given a "veto vote" if they wish to do so.

    This does give an opportunity to use officials with diplomatic immunity for intentionally breaking the law—espionage and assassinations. The expected response from the host country is not against the person, but against the country which is responsible for the actions of their diplomats. There likely are old historical precedents of military action caused by personal actions of emissaries, but nowadays it would likely result in expelling all diplomats of that country. As usually diplomatic relations and reputation are far more valuable than the career of some official, one could expect that if a diplomat intentionally kills someone without actual orders from their government, then they'd be given up to be punished.

    There are definitely a couple old exceptions relating to diplomats inciting rebellion in the host country, but these days that would be more likely to result in sanctions and/or military action. Espionage less so, since that is at this point a fairly expected use of diplomatic immunity (if you're caught you're expelled, but it's expected that some diplomats are really spies who have an immunity-granting job as a cover for their spying).

    Most of the answer is correct but it does not follow that a consul is *allowed* to kill someone, in theory or in practice.

    I think the question is a legal one. Would the local courts convict if the case got to court?

    @Lembik If it's covered by consular immunity (or if you have diplomatic immunity), it won't even get to court -- the police cannot detain you, and you would likely end up out of the country one way or another before the court rules. If it does get to court, my understanding is that immunity requires them to drop the charges (so if you return not under diplomatic status, they still can't charge you with a crime committed under diplomatic status unless your country waives immunity for that crime).

    Forgot Ramond Davis

    @FailedScientist It seems there was some disagreement on whether on not he was a bonafide diplomat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Allen_Davis_incident#Diplomatic_status - Were going to need an example case of someone who's diplomatic status is 100% agreed upon.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM