Recently 2 Nepalese women said to have been rescued from the house of Saudi diplomat.
The Saudi Arabian embassy is learnt to have invoked “diplomatic immunity” for its diplomat accused of rape by two women from Nepal and registered a protest over Gurgaon police allegedly entering his house to conduct investigations.
The Saudi embassy also issued a statement terming as “false” the allegations of sexual assault against the diplomat.
What is diplomatic immunity?
Diplomatic immunity is a principle of international law by which certain foreign government officials are not subject to the jurisdiction of local courts and other authorities for both their official and, to a large extent, their personal activities.
Diplomatic agents enjoy the highest degree of privileges and immunities. They enjoy complete personal inviolability, which means that they may not be handcuffed (except in extraordinary circumstances), arrested, or detained; and neither their property (including vehicles) nor residences may be entered or searched.
Diplomatic agents also enjoy complete immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the host country’s courts and thus cannot be prosecuted no matter how serious the offense unless their immunity is waived by the sending state.
Finally, they enjoy complete immunity from the obligation to provide evidence as witnesses and cannot be required to testify even, for example, if they have been the victim of a crime
Family members forming part of the household of diplomatic agents enjoy precisely the same privileges and immunities as do the sponsoring diplomatic agents
When the immunity can be waived off?
While it is not ordinarily of concern to police authorities, they also have immunity from civil suits except in four very limited circumstances:
- In connection with real property transactions not conducted on behalf of the mission;
- In connection with any role they may play as executor for or heir to an estate being distributed in the host country;
- In connection with the performance of professional or commercial activities outside the scope of their official duties; or
- In respect of counterclaims on the same subject matter when they have been the initiating party in a suit.
Other complications in arresting Saudi diplomat
What constitutes a ‘grave crime’ and what doesn’t, is open to interpretation and problematic at best. There are very serious examples of grave crimes done by diplomats and freed.
Two years earlier, the US had invoked diplomatic immunity to have Raymond Davis — widely believed to be a CIA contractor — freed and returned to the US at once from Pakistan. In fact, President Barack Obama invoked diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention and demanded the release of the “diplomat”. While his crime was killing two Pakistani men in broad daylight in Lahore.
India and Saudi Arabia share cordial relations. Apart from the fact that Saudi Arabia is India’s second largest supplier of crude oil and its fourth largest trade partner (bilateral trade reached nearly $40 billion in 2014-15), it is also home to a sizeable diaspora of over 2.5 million Indians.
The alleged crime occurred in India, and has been charged under the Indian Penal Code. However, with the alleged perpetrator being a Saudi national and the victims Nepali case has become very complicated.
Officials concede that while it is highly unlikely the immunity would be waived given the Saudi Embassy’s statement, such a request is necessary to proceed against the diplomat. In the next step, the government could declare the diplomat ‘ persona non grata’, and withdraw his diplomatic accreditation. This would effectively revoke his visa and protection to his family, and force the Saudi government to repatriate the diplomat or allow him to be expelled from the country.