Does diplomatic immunity apply for American diplomat's wife in fatal crash?

  
Via:  perrie-halpern  •  one month ago  •  34 comments

Does diplomatic immunity apply for American diplomat's wife in fatal crash?
Analysis: Now that American Anne Sacoolas has left the U.K. following the deadly crash, she either has residual immunity — or none at all.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


By   Danny Cevallos


The family of a British teenager killed in a crash involving a spouse of a U.S. diplomat, who has since left the United Kingdom,   believes she should return to that country   to face justice.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has joined the victim's family in publicly expressing hope that Anne Sacoolas, the American diplomat's wife, would return to the U.K., and indicated he might appeal the issue to the White House.

But whether she will be subject to possible charges depends on her protection under diplomatic immunity, a centuries-old principle of international law dating back to Roman times. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, or VCDR, universally codified this patchwork legal tradition beginning in 1961.

The VCDR has   since been ratified   by almost every country in the world, including the U.K. and the United States. It provides diplomats with absolute immunity from criminal prosecution, and protection from most civil and administrative actions brought in the "receiving State," or where they are stationed. A diplomat is not even required to give evidence in court as a witness under the VCDR.

There are three exceptions to a diplomat's civil immunity, none of which are likely to apply to a motor vehicle accident allegedly caused by a diplomat.

But it was not a diplomat who is alleged to have caused this   fatal crash Aug. 27 . It was his wife. No matter: the VCDR extends immunity to family members who form part of the diplomat's household. While every country may define "family" differently, diplomats' spouses enjoy co-extensive immunity.

If the wife is entitled to full diplomatic immunity, the U.K. plaintiffs wouldn't fare much better bringing a lawsuit in the U.S. judicial system.

Under   U.S. federal law , a district court must dismiss any case against someone entitled to immunity under the Vienna Convention.

That's if diplomatic immunity still applies.

It may no longer apply to a wife of a diplomat who has left the receiving country and returned to her "sending," or home, country.

Diplomats   lose much of their immunity   following the termination of their diplomatic status under Article 39 of the VCDR, which provides that the "immunities shall normally cease at the moment when he leaves the country … but shall subsist until that time … However, with respect to acts performed by such a person in the exercise of his functions as a member of the mission, immunity shall continue to subsist."

Article 39 provides something less than full diplomatic immunity: " residual " immunity. Once a diplomat becomes a "former" diplomat, he or she is not immune from suit for prior acts, unless those acts were performed "in the exercise of [the former diplomat's] functions as a member of the mission."

Sometimes, a spouse of a diplomat may not even be entitled to residual immunity because it applies only to a person who was "a member of the mission." Just being a diplomat's wife is not enough; she must have conducted acts as a member of the mission.

Sacoolas' liability turns on what she did as the wife of a diplomat because residual immunity is exclusively reserved for "member[s] of the mission" only.

So now that she's left the country, either Sacoolas, 42, has residual immunity, which only protects her from liability for official diplomatic acts, or she has no immunity at all.

Either way, she is now potentially subject to the jurisdiction of the English courts — if they can get her back from the U.S. That becomes an issue of extradition, and yet another tricky issue of international law, which itself is often reduced to a tricky issue of diplomatic relations.


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Perrie Halpern R.A.
1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.    one month ago

Personally, I am against diplomatic immunity. When in Rome...

 
 
 
zuksam
1.1  zuksam  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1    one month ago

It's a very complicated issue and we only ever hear about the most egregious uses of diplomatic immunity. Without diplomatic immunity Diplomats and their families could be held hostage on minor charges or even trumped up charges. Many countries don't have free speech protections and it's kind of a diplomats job to say and write things that these countries might jail their own citizens for saying. Also there are a lot of crazy laws on the books even in this country. I think the main problem with diplomatic immunity is the spirit of the law is often violated because although you're immune to the host countries laws you are still supposed to be under your own countries laws and subject to criminal and civil penalties in their courts. The problem is these diplomats are usually well connected in their own countries so they are protected not by diplomatic immunity but by corruption. Whatever this woman did to cause the crash is probably illegal here so she could and should be charged in the USA.

 
 
 
warmall
1.1.1  warmall  replied to  zuksam @1.1    one month ago
Many countries don't have free speech protections and it's kind of a diplomats job to say and write things that these countries might jail their own citizens for saying.

Agree...

 
 
 
Kathleen
1.1.2  Kathleen  replied to  zuksam @1.1    one month ago

I agree 

 
 
 
Kathleen
1.1.3  Kathleen  replied to  Kathleen @1.1.2    one month ago

I agree about minor crimes, so that they do not over charge. 

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
1.1.4  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  zuksam @1.1    one month ago

I have to say that I hadn't thought of some of those issues. Well done. I still think that many of these diplomats (I live in NY where we have thousands of them) do take it upon themselves to break the law.. like parking wherever they want to and not paying their tickets. Obviously, killing someone needs to be investigated in my opinion.. but you do make good points about the potential of abuses by the host countries. 

 
 
 
warmall
1.1.5  warmall  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.1.4    one month ago
I have to say that I hadn't thought of some of those issues. Well done. I still think that many of these diplomats (I live in NY where we have thousands of them) do take it upon themselves to break the law.. like parking wherever they want to and not paying their tickets. Obviously, killing someone needs to be investigated in my opinion.. but you do make good points about the potential of abuses by the host countries. 

The UN headquarters is located in NY. This makes the situation more complicated. In any case, diplomats should be more responsible. It looks bad. 

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
1.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1    one month ago

If someone breaks a minor law only because they were unaware of it, that is one thing, but not in this case.  I say extradite the bitch, get her a lawyer, and try her like the criminal she is.   Many years ago, a close friend of mine was sexually assaulted by the son of a diplomat.  Because they played the DI card, he got off scott free.  My friend later committed suicide over this.

 
 
 
Kathleen
1.2.1  Kathleen  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @1.2    one month ago

I am sorry to hear about your friend. 

This woman should pay for the crime she has done.  No one should get off for any crime they committed.  You are right, in this case she should be sent back to face her fate.

 
 
 
XDm9mm
1.2.2  XDm9mm  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @1.2    one month ago
If someone breaks a minor law only because they were unaware of it, that is one thing, but not in this case. 

An error was made.   I'm fairly certain she did not go out that day looking to run someone down.  She drove on the wrong side (to them) of the road.

Also, if you want to try "diplomats", then you'll agree that any and all charges that can be brought should be.   But remember that in many if not most other countries, you don't enjoy the protections of our legal system and have to prove your innocence and they do not need to prove your guilt.  The accusation is sufficient.

As has been noted.  Diplomatic immunity is difficult at best, but it's the best thing we have to ensure governments, even enemy and adversarial or warring ones have to deal with each other at all times.

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
1.2.3  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  XDm9mm @1.2.2    one month ago

You make a good point and maybe I am a little jaded when it comes to DI due to what happened to my friend.

 
 
 
XDm9mm
1.2.4  XDm9mm  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @1.2.3    one month ago
I am a little jaded when it comes to DI due to what happened to my friend.

Understandable.   I've always had my own concerns with immunity, even though I've enjoyed it (never abused or required "coverage") quite a bit.

If memory serves me right, there was one instance where Georgia (as in country of) stripped a Diplomat of protected status for killing a woman (family?) in a vehicle accident where he was so drunk, he was still stumbling around AFTER the wreck.  (Most drunks generally get sufficiently straight to function after an accident) and even denied he was in an accident and wasn't driving as they got him out of the car (they had to cut him out).

 
 
 
†hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh
2  †hε pε⊕pレε'š ƒïšh    one month ago

No status should be given to a bureaucrat, diplomat or politician than is not extended to the people.

Time to end these ridiculous privileges.

 
 
 
devangelical
3  devangelical    one month ago

extradite that bitch, take her passport, liquidate her assets, and reward the proceeds to the victims family

 
 
 
Nerm_L
4  Nerm_L    one month ago

Yes, diplomatic immunity applies.  And there are good reasons why diplomatic immunity applies.  What everyone is overlooking is that the United States government is responsible for the death of Harry Dunn.

Anne Sacoolas is (or was) an agent of the United States government and, as such, receives diplomatic immunity.  The United States government assumes the full responsibility and liability for the actions of its agents.  By focusing attention on Sacoolas, the United States government is being let off the hook.

 
 
 
XDm9mm
4.1  XDm9mm  replied to  Nerm_L @4    one month ago
By focusing attention on Sacoolas, the United States government is being let off the hook.

Not really.   I can assure you that Embassy personnel have been in contact with the family and have, besides making formal and official apologies (which to the family really don't mean that much) have already discussed financial compensation for their loss as well as offering to cover any and all funeral related expenses.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
4.1.1  Nerm_L  replied to  XDm9mm @4.1    one month ago
Not really.   I can assure you that Embassy personnel have been in contact with the family and have, besides making formal and official apologies (which to the family really don't mean that much) have already discussed financial compensation for their loss as well as offering to cover any and all funeral related expenses.

That is standard procedure.  A meeting with the President is not really unusual, either. 

The family of Harry Dunn is letting the US government off the hook by focusing attention on Anne Sacoolas as a person.  

 
 
 
XDm9mm
4.1.2  XDm9mm  replied to  Nerm_L @4.1.1    one month ago
The family of Harry Dunn is letting the US government off the hook by focusing attention on Anne Sacoolas as a person.

They're hardly letting the government "off the hook".  They simply want what they perceive as personal justice for the person involved.

The family is not looking at the 'broad picture' so to speak, they only see a person that was on the wrong side of the road and want that individual to be held accountable.  

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
4.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Nerm_L @4    one month ago

The US government was not driving the car.

 
 
 
XDm9mm
4.2.1  XDm9mm  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @4.2    one month ago
The US government was not driving the car.

When I travel with a Black or Red Passport, I am representing the US Government and any and all my actions are guided by that.  Period, end of story.   The government put me in the place I'm in and they assume responsibility for my actions by that action.

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
4.2.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  XDm9mm @4.2.1    one month ago

What are black and red passports?  I am unfamiliar with them and their meanings.  When I had one, it was green.

 
 
 
XDm9mm
4.2.3  XDm9mm  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @4.2.2    one month ago

Black is Diplomat and Red (more maroon actually) is "official"...   essentially any government agency like Military, FBI, etc.  

Blue is of course the standard tourist type.

 
 
 
zuksam
4.2.4  zuksam  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @4.2    one month ago
The US government was not driving the car.

But they are Liable for the actions of their employees the same as Walmart is liable for the actions of their employees. If a Walmart truck hits you and is at fault you sue Walmart. Even though this woman is not an employee of the Government by giving her diplomatic immunity they are assuming liability for her.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
4.2.5  Nerm_L  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @4.2    one month ago
The US government was not driving the car.

That is incorrect. An agent representing the US government means the US government really was driving the car.

While considerably more complex, it's really not very much different than an airline being responsible and liable for the actions of the airline's pilots and staff.  The big difference is that an airline cannot enact and enforce laws while the US government can and does.  The US government can prosecute Anne Sacoolas for a crime committed while acting as the government's agent.

People don't seem to understand that the employee handbook for government employees are Federal laws and regulations.  Getting a speeding ticket while operating a government vehicle is a Federal crime.  Anne Sacoolas driving on the wrong side of the road was a Federal crime, by itself, and Sacoolas could be prosecuted for that alone (although such a prosecution is unlikely).

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
4.2.6  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  XDm9mm @4.2.3    one month ago

Thank you.  I always manage to find out something new every day here.  

 
 
 
Kavika
4.2.7  Kavika   replied to  Paula Bartholomew @4.2.6    one month ago

There is another color, it's brown. It also has quite a history.

07-14-14-haudenosaunee-1.jpg?itok=vIINp0

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
4.2.8  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Kavika @4.2.7    one month ago

It is very unusual looking.  I like it.

 
 
 
Kavika
5  Kavika     one month ago

This seems to be a critical part of the ''immunity'' defense. 

Sometimes, a spouse of a diplomat may not even be entitled to residual immunity because it applies only to a person who was "a member of the mission." Just being a diplomat's wife is not enough; she must have conducted acts as a member of the mission.
 
 
 
XDm9mm
5.1  XDm9mm  replied to  Kavika @5    one month ago
This seems to be a critical part of the ''immunity'' defense.

In reality, all (at least American) personnel are involved with the missions in some form or fashion.  Those 'acts' might not be as paid personnel, but they're of an 'official nature' none the less.  Formal meet and greets, hosting host country individuals and dignitaries at events, interactions with the embassy personnel of other countries, etc.

More often than not, when those actions are taken, they're at the request of the Ambassador or other senior embassy staff. 

 
 
 
Kavika
5.1.1  Kavika   replied to  XDm9mm @5.1    one month ago

I guess that point being that the ''immunity defense'' is so broad that washing a dish or dusting lint of her dress could be considered ''part of the mission''....

 
 
 
XDm9mm
5.1.2  XDm9mm  replied to  Kavika @5.1.1    one month ago

Essentially, yes.

But, at least when Americans get tickets in host countries, they're paid.

 
 
 
Kavika
5.1.3  Kavika   replied to  XDm9mm @5.1.2    one month ago
But, at least when Americans get tickets in host countries, they're paid.

LOL, well there is that.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
5.2  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Kavika @5    one month ago

Good point Kavika!

 
 
 
bbl-1
7  bbl-1    one month ago

Diplomatic Immunity?  Depends on who you are.

Besides, the statement of, "When you're a star you can do anything," has changed the playing field.  We are in a new game.

Is the Sacoolas family in the UK because of campaign contributions or because of merit and experience?

None the less, this is another incident which will solidify the tatters in US foreign relations.  To abuse the privilege of Diplomatic Immunity is very wrong.  Diplomatic Immunity in itself is a safeguard against the whims of nations seeking revenge or political blackmail.

 
 
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