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Throughout history there has always been a need for communication between nations. For this communication to go un-influenced by any outside prejudices or circumstances, a shield was needed to allow the messengers to operate and properly represent their individual nations. This shield, now labelled diplomatic immunity, provided these messengers with this opportunity by protecting them from the laws and restrictions of the nations they are attempting to converse with. As a whole, the diplomatic community does not take advantage of their protected status in the countries they are positioned, however there are an isolated few who do. Quite frequently diplomats accumulate massive records of parking fines, driving offenses, and recently even committed murder. Since diplomatic immunity is a necessary aspect of international relations, what are we to do with those who display a complete lack of respect to the country they are attempting to maintain relations with? It is clear that we do not want to abolish the privileges we give to diplomats, because our own officials would then be subject to the harsh and extreme laws common in many foreign countries. When this privilege is abused, it must then be decided by the sending country what disciplinary actions must be taken.
"The conduct of negotiations between nations is called diplomacy. Those who carry out diplomacy are, naturally, called diplomats. Their duty is to pursue, gain, and maintain as much peace and harmony for the countries they serve as a given situation will permit." (Compton's Encyclopedia). The practise of diplomacy has been common since approximately 300 BC. Because communications were so slow, the diplomats were expected to be able to operate independently without getting themselves, or their country, into conflict. The diplomat had to be able to reflect the thinking of the leaders they were representing and be aware of all aspects of their own nation and the one they were visiting. Everyone recognized the value of diplomats and as a result, they were generally granted immunity from harm. It was considered a grave insult to harass diplomats and was commonly considered equivalent to a declaration of war. (Diplomatic Offices). Diplomacy was conducted by messengers and politicians until the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was not until after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 that diplomatic service was recognized as a profession unto itself in various countries. It was then that rules and protocols of modern diplomacy began to take form. It was not until 1961 however, that a document titled the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was created, outlining the legal limitations of a diplomats immunity. (Diplomacy: An Historical Perspective)
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
This document, put into effect by the United Nations in 1964, offers a unifying agreement on how diplomacy should be carried out around the world. It entitles the visiting diplomats to be exempt from both criminal and civil laws with few exceptions. The privileges allowed to them are as follows :
• The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable and not liable to any form of arrest or detention.
• Their residence is also inviolable.
• They are not required to serve as a witness.
• The diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state and also from civil and administrative jurisdiction.
• The diplomatic agent shall be exempt from all dues and taxes, with few exceptions.
• Their personal baggage is exempt from inspection unless suspected to contain :
- articles not for the use of the mission.
- articles not for the use of the agent himself, his family or his household.
• All family member (unless nationals of the receiving state) are also granted immunity.
Inviolable implies that they shall be free from search and injury, that they may not be violated.
Foreign embassies are similarly protected. Under a principle called extraterritoriality, an embassy and its grounds are considered not to be within the territory of the host state but within the territory of the nation represented by the embassy. The embassy may not be entered by anyone without the permission of the head of the mission. Other immunities granted to the embassy are :
• The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. Agents of the receiving state may not enter them.
• All furnishings, vehicles, and premises are immune from search, requisition or execution.
• They are exempt from all national, regional and municipal taxes and
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Diplomacy, International law, Diplomatic immunity, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Diplomatic mission, Diplomat, Persona non grata, Legal immunity, Immunity, Foreign relations of the Holy See, Diplomatic law
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