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Mon Dec 2, 2019, 07:54 PM

Dodgy diplomats: how envoys misuse their immunity

Sensational crimes committed by envoys while abroad are rare Ė but why should diplomats have all the immunity?

Rene Chun
Mon 2 Dec 2019 09.58 ESTLast modified on Mon 2 Dec 2019 10.24 EST

Aheinous crime is committed, witnesses and evidence abounds. As soon as the cuffs come out, the villain flashes his embassy ID and utters two words: ďDiplomatic immunity.Ē Realizing their suspect canít be arrested, the cops can only grimace. Justice is mocked and the diplomat walks.

This familiar scenario has been a Hollywood staple for decades. IMDb lists 50 titles on its Most Popular Diplomatic Immunity Movie and TV Shows page, from Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) to NCIS: New Orleans (2018).

Recent headlines, though, are a stark reminder that diplomatic immunity is more than just a hack plot device: A Teenís Death Has Put Diplomatic Immunity Under a Spotlight (Time), British Fury as an American Cites Diplomatic Immunity (the Economist). Donít Abuse Diplomatic Immunity (Toledo Blade). Thatís how the media covered the story of Harry Dunn, a British teenager who died in August after his motorcycle was struck by a Volvo SUV traveling on the wrong side of the road in Northamptonshire, England.

The driver, Anne Sacoolas, claimed diplomatic immunity and fled the UK on a private jet. The UK foreign secretary later admitted in the House of Commons that local police had no authority to detain Sacoolas. Public outrage and op-ed vitriol ensued.


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