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Titill
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International Law on Immunities. Where are we heading for?

Útgáfa
Apríl 2011
Útdráttur
en

Cooperation and communication among all member states of the international community is one of the crucial elements in ensuring international peace and security in the world. Diplomatic relations have been established for the purposes of ensuring these communications and cooperation between states. What is more state representatives have been sent on behalf of a foreign state for the purposes of carrying out official acts in other states. These representatives need to be protected from the foreign state’s interference and, as a result, are granted immunity and inviolability in order to proceed unhindered with their missions, and what is more, maintain peaceful channels of communication among nations. However, while immunities are considerably important in preventing interference with state’s representatives, they can also hinder prosecution for heinous crimes under international law.
Diplomatic immunity is one of the oldest elements of foreign relations, dating back as far as Ancient Greece and Rome. Today, it is a principle that has been codified into the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations regulating past customs and practices. Consuls and international organizations, although their privileges and immunities are similar to diplomatic agents, do differ.
The Vienna Convention provides certain immunities and privileges to different levels of diplomatic officials, their staff and families. Privileges and immunities will be considered under various categories, namely the diplomatic mission, the diplomatic official, diplomatic staff, and families. Each category receives privileges and immunities. For example diplomatic officials enjoy personal inviolability, immunity from jurisdiction and inviolability of diplomats’ residences and property. The staff and families of diplomatic officials also enjoy privileges and immunities. Because so many enjoy immunities and privileges Vienna Convention provides remedies against diplomatic agents, staff and families who abuse their position. Moreover, in recent years International Courts and International Criminal Tribunals have been dealing with cases concerning senior state officials such as Heads of State, Prime Ministers, Ministers for Foreign Affairs and diplomatic agents which have been prosecuted for serious crimes under international law. Can these high ranking officials shield themselves behind immunity? If so, doesn’t it evolve into impunity? Furthermore, national courts have also tried to assert jurisdiction over these senior officials when they violate international law as was demonstrated in the well known case of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Birting
14.4.2011


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