Do Diplomats have Immunity from Criminal Prosecution?

novi_pasos_bihBosnia and Herzegovina has 44 diplomatic-consular branch offices (embassies) in the world.

Generally, diplomatic status is allowed to diplomatic staff and members of their families for the period of their official stay and work in BiH. In some countries, this period usually lasts around four years, sometimes three. One person cannot hold a diplomatic and official passport at the same time.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of BiH published a Guide on diplomatic protocol, which gives information on issuing confirmation of diplomatic status for the purpose of tax and custom reliefs that foreign diplomatic and consular branch offices, missions of international organization and their staff are allowed to exercise in BiH within the diplomatic privileges foreseen in international agreements, regulations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the basis of reciprocity.

Persons with diplomatic status enjoy diplomatic immunity and certain privileges regulated with many international conventions, primarily the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, but also with the principle of reciprocity and mutual relationship of certain countries.

Therefore, immunity and privileges are valid from the moment when a foreign representative crosses the border of the host country, and are valid until the foreign representative leaves the country. Duration of immunity starts before the reception, i.e. the handing over of credentials, and does not end with the submission or reception of letters of revocation. After the submission or reception of letters of revocation, there is a deadline within which a diplomat must leave the country.

“Diplomatic representative enjoys immunity from criminal jurisdiction (criminal court) of the state where the diplomatic representative is accredited, as well as from civil and administrational jurisdiction (civil and administrational court) with certain exceptions.

Diplomatic representative is entirely exempt from criminal jurisdiction of the host country. That refers to all their actions and behaviors, not only those committed during performing official duty. The rule of immunity from criminal prosecution has absolute value, just like a directive of the Convention on Inviolability of Personality, thus diplomats cannot be tried regardless of whether the incriminating act was executed during the performance of official duties or when the representative acted as a legal entity.

A diplomat cannot be deprived of freedom in the case of a severe criminal offense either. No criminal procedure can be launched against a diplomat in the country where the diplomat is performing diplomatic functions,” explained Satko Bitanga, advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of BiH.

A dispute was long led between writers of international law regarding the fact if a country can launch procedure and bring to the court a foreign representative in extremely severe cases. Today, it is generally accepted that criminal immunity is valid for all actions and that territorial state cannot bring a diplomatic representative before the court, but only request that the diplomat is punished in the country of origin.

Therefore, immunity from jurisdiction does not mean freedom from punishment in absolute sense. If a diploma cannot be tried in the host country, the diplomat who performed a criminal offense can be tried in the country of origin.

(Source: radiosarajevo.ba)

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