Diplomatic immunity needs to be reviewed  

Syed Mahbubur Rashid     | Published: November 02, 2018 21:57:22 | Updated: November 03, 2018 21:48:42

The Khashoggi killing is the most tragic and distressing incident in recent times haunting people all over the globe. People everywhere are dumfounded and deeply anguished as the story of his killing got unearthed.

Jamal Khashoggi was a renowned journalist. Once an insider of the Saudi royal family, he fell from the grace because of his dissenting views about the royalty. He went on self exile to the USA where he served as a columnist of the Washington Post. As reported he was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 02, 2018. At the early stage, the Saudi government denied any knowledge about his whereabouts expressing total ignorance, but lately it has been coming up with one story after another. The Saudi authorities have finally admitted that it was a premeditated murder which happened inside the Saudi Consulate. The Saudi authorities have further informed that they arrested all alleged 18 killers. Meanwhile, the Turkish government is asking for extradition of the alleged murderers which the Saudi authorities are refusing under the plea of diplomatic immunity as provided under the Geneva Convention.

Under the principles of diplomatic immunity, extraterritoriality persons within a legation or embassy are exempt from the jurisdiction of the host country; the legation or embassy is considered a part of the country that the diplomatic mission represents. Under the privilege of diplomatic immunity, diplomatic personnel and their families are exempt from arrest for violating the host country's laws.

The US president Donald Trump, consciously or unconsciously, admitted a very hard truth. He has said that the Khashoggi case is the worst type of cover up story. From his demeanor it appears that he is more annoyed for the foolish cover up than the offence of killing an international celebrity.

From the reaction of the US President, it is clear that in the field of diplomacy cover-up is acceptable if managed properly. Diplomatic immunity is required, but to what extent? Actually, powerful states use this privilege. During the period of cold war, it was widely misused for various mischievous activities. Diplomatic premises have been used for harbouring the enemies of the host country. It had also been used and is still used for designing and planning the decision of regime change. It is difficult to control or take action against the conspiracy hatched by powerful countries because of diplomatic immunity.

But when there is reason to believe that the embassy staff has committed crime like murder, can they still be allowed to remain free? Immediately, the guest country's embassy may be requested to grant permission or waive immunity so that the host country can go for action. In case of murder, apparently insignificant element of evidence may play a great role at the time of trial. It is high time that the Geneva Convention of diplomatic immunity be reviewed, particularly in dealing with of crime against life or other crimes like rape. Will the victim run to the guest country for getting justice? If the host country had the power to search an embassy after having reasonable evidence of murder, the murderers of Khashoggi could not have dared to plan such a gruesome act. One month has passed, yet the remains of Khashoggi's dead body could not be traced.

The media and international organisations dealing with human rights should come forward in demanding the review of the diplomatic immunity issue. The Saudi Authorities have repeatedly assured that they would investigate thoroughly and the culprits will be brought to justice.  We hope that they keep their words.           





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