Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

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The United Nations Conference on Diplomatic Intercourse and Immunities, which took place in Vienna, Austria, in 1961, resulted in the adoption of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

  • This treaty outlines the guidelines for diplomatic relations between nations as well as the rights that diplomats have abroad.
  • There are currently 192 parties to the convention, and the treaty went into effect in April 1964.
  • Military and civilian personnel from the military departments who are present in the nation at the direction of the head of the diplomatic mission are likewise covered by the Vienna Convention.
  • Despite the fact that this convention codifies the standards for diplomatic contacts between nations and formalizes diplomatic immunity, these rules have been in use for at least 200 years.

Foreign ambassadors enjoyed privileges in the ancient Indian, Greek, and Roman civilizations.
The Congress of Vienna made the first contemporary attempt to define diplomatic immunity in 1815.

  • Legal immunity for diplomats is one of the key provisions of the treaty, which protects them from being prosecuted under host nation law.
  • According to the Vienna Convention, diplomats are “inviolable” and cannot be held or taken into custody.
  • Additionally, host countries are required to defend diplomats from threats to their liberty and dignity.
  • The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which was adopted in 1963 and went into effect in 1967, is another comparable convention.
Vienna Convention Key Elements

In this section, some of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations’ key components are discussed.

  • According to Article 9 of the convention, the host nation may at any moment and for any cause proclaim any member of a mission’s diplomatic personnel persona non grata. Such a person risks losing his diplomatic immunity if his home country does not recall him within a predetermined time frame.
  • Due to their participation in activities inconsistent with their standing as members of a diplomatic mission, the Indian Government labeled two Pakistani officials from their mission persona non grata in May 2020.
  • The treaty contains clauses that forbid the host nation from searching the diplomatic mission’s offices and taking its belongings or papers. This includes diplomats’ private dwellings as well. Additionally, it forbids the host nation from approaching the mission or embassy’s grounds, which are regarded as sacred.
  • The mission and the home nation should be able to communicate freely. No courier or diplomatic bag should be taken or opened.
  • According to the treaty, foreign envoys cannot be held accountable or punished by the host nation for conduct taken while performing their official duties. Only the home nation has the authority to waive this diplomatic immunity.
  • The pact grants host nations the authority to kick out envoys.
  • Professional activities that are not exempt from diplomatic immunity are also mentioned in the convention.
Diplomatic Immunity

The concept of international law known as “diplomatic immunity” permits diplomats to function and perform their official duties without concern for being detained or prosecuted in accordance with the laws of the host country.

  • The power of the police and judges in the nation where diplomats are stationed is constrained by this concept.
  • It does not imply that diplomats can act however they choose without worrying about repercussions.
  • Its foundation is expediency and reciprocity, and it is not a total license.
  • A diplomat may be accused of whatever crime they may have committed, but they are not allowed to be detained, tried in court, or even be arrested. Instead, he ought to be returned home after a fair trial so that he can be tried in accordance with local laws.
  • As previously indicated, serious offenders may be labeled persona non grata.
  • Individuals and their families who are citizens of the host nation and work in foreign embassies or missions are not immune from prosecution.
  • The home country of a criminal suspect may be asked to waive its immunity.
  • The scope of diplomatic immunity varies. Diplomatic agents (high ranking officials like ambassadors) and their families are eligible for the highest immunity.
  • Some embassy employees have a limited level of protection from civil lawsuits but full immunity from criminal courts and the police.
India and Vienna Convention

In 1965, India became a member of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The Diplomatic Relations (Vienna Convention) Act, 1972 was passed by India to implement the Vienna Convention.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) told the United Nations General Assembly in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case that Pakistan had broken the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by denying Jadhav access to consular services. Pakistan had incorrectly claimed in this instance that espionage suspects are exempt from the convention’s application. The ICJ further pointed out that Pakistan had broken the terms of the treaty by notifying the Indian consulate of Jadhav’s arrest three weeks after it had occurred.

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