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Embassy staff accused of serious crimes hide behind 'immunity'

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Watu, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. Watu

    Watu JF-Expert Member

    Jul 6, 2011
    Joined: May 12, 2008
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    [h=2]Embassy staff accused of serious crimes hide behind 'immunity'[/h] [​IMG] Martin Bentham, Home Affairs Editor
    5 Jul 2011
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    Soaring numbers of foreign diplomats and embassy staff in London are being arrested over crimes including sex attacks and robberies - but escape justice because they claim immunity from prosecution.
    Exclusive new Met figures released to the Evening Standard after a Freedom of Information request show that 59 officially registered diplomats have been held for crimes committed in the capital during the past three years.
    The most serious case involves a man from Sierra Leone's High Commission, who was arrested for rape. Others detained by the Met include suspected robbers from the Nigerian and Ivory Coast embassies and sex attackers from Egypt and Bolivia.
    Further offences committed during the diplomatic crimewave include fraud, grievous bodily harm, drink-driving and shoplifting. A suspect from Oman's embassy was arrested for making a bomb threat.
    The number of arrests has nearly tripled over three years. International treaty rules give immunity from prosecution to all diplomats - and any relatives living with them - who are registered with the Foreign Office.
    It can ask countries to waive the immunity of offending diplomats, but said that 11 requests to do so in the past three years had been turned down.
    Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said she was appalled by the fact that serious offenders were escaping justice.
    "These are people who could go on to commit other offences and it is time that these antiquated laws were revised so that people who commit crimes can be prosecuted," she said.
    "Until that happens, I hope that the Met presses as hard as possible to ensure that at the very least these offenders are kicked out of the country."
    Today's statistics, which include alleged offences committed by family members entitled to diplomatic immunity, show that Saudi Arabia was among the countries with the highest number of offenders. Four of its embassy staff were arrested on drink-drive charges and another for shoplifting.
    Algeria, which registered four arrests for fraud, is also high on today's diplomatic list of shame, along with Russia, which produced two alleged shoplifters and a drunk driver.
    Even one of the Pope's representatives was arrested - for drink driving.
    The Polish embassy said today that a relative of one of its diplomats had been arrested for rape, but said that it had agreed to waive his immunity. The man had gone on trial, but had been found not guilty.
    Overall, today's statistics show that 27 diplomats or their relatives were arrested during the year to the end of March.
    The previous year's total was 22, while the 2008/9 figure was 10. It means that the number arrested has risen by 170 per cent over the three years.
    Diplomatic immunity is provided under the terms of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Its provisions are enacted in this country under the Diplomatic Privileges Act which gives immunity to all members of "foreign missions" accepted by the Foreign Office as performing a diplomatic function.
    The immunity, which covers family members who part of the diplomat's household, grants exemption from arrest or detention.
    The Foreign Office said that it had been rebuffed 11 times during the past three years after requesting that a diplomat's immunity be waived, altthough seven people had been voluntarily sent home by their embassy.
    A spokeswoman added: "The UK demands a high standard of behaviour of its diplomats, and we expect the same of diplomats representing other countries here in the UK.
    The vast majority of the diplomatic community in the UK, which numbers some 22,500, obey our laws.

    "People entitled to immunity are still expected to obey the law. When advised of an alleged offence, the Foreign Office always raises the issue with the mission concerned, seeks waivers when requested to do so by the police and for the most serious offences, can seek the immediate withdrawal of the diplomat."