US Misinformation: International Law is Clear that Diplomatic Immunity is Not Absolute
Lahore, Pakistan--You cannot open the TV, or read a paper here without more and more news about Raymond Davis and his murderous act. His killing on Jan. 27 of two young Pakistanis has created international waves, too, plunging the Pakistan-America relationship into stormy waters.
A great deal has been written about the case: Raymond Davis’s employment status, whether he is a diplomat or not, who his victims were and what led to their demise at his hands, and finally whether or not Davis can be detained and ultimately tried under the Pakistani Law.
Interestingly though, nobody in the media has made a study of the Vienna Diplomatic Coventions that discuss diplomatic immunity. The convention of 1961 gets cited routinely by the American government, which claims it grants all diplomatic workers immunity from prosecution.
But that claim overstates the case. The actual document -- never actually quoted -- is more nuanced.
A friend notes, “The issue is not who the two Pakistanis were. The real issue is: The US media has confirmed what the US government is denying: Davis runs a private security firm. He is a military contractor. He is registered in Colorado as the owner of a security firm.” He says the questions that should be asked are: What was his real job in Lahore/Islamabad/Peshawar? And can a diplomats carry an unlicensed gun?”
This same friend also suggests that the indentity of the two Pakistani shooting victims -- according to a number of Pakistani reports, and to several in the US, including ABC News, they were working for Pakistani intelligence and were tailing Davis -- is a distraction. He says the real issues are what Davis was doing here and secondly, can a so-called “technical advisor”--the term the US State Department finally settled on to describe his job -- claim diplomatic immunity?
I would argue, though, that the real issue is a general ignorance concerning what diplomatic immunity is, and whether such immunity extends to all acts of any nature committed by an individual, even if that individual does qualify as a diplomat. All other questions are a distraction.
The concept of diplomatic rights was established in the mid-17th century in Europe and since then came gradually to be accepted throughout the world. These rights were formalized by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects diplomats from being persecuted or prosecuted while on a diplomatic mission.
However, if we examine the specific articles of that Vienna Convention of 1961, some interesting facts emerge.