Vienna Conventions and diplomatic immunity

Relations between nations are governed by the twin covenants the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 which define internationally accepted rules regarding diplomatic immunity and procedures.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides a framework for establishing, maintaining and terminating diplomatic relations on a basis of consent between independent sovereign states and specifies. It specifies functions of diplomatic missions and declarations of persona non grata of a diplomat in case of a criminal offence.

Article 29 of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations provides inviolability for the person of diplomats and Article 31 establishes their immunity from civil and criminal jurisdiction.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which govern relations between consulates and treatment of consular officials, provides less immunity to those under it.

Article 36 of the Convention provides for obligations for authorities in case of arrest or detention of a foreign national, to guarantee the inalienable right to counsel and access to consular protection.

Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, who has been charged by US authorities with visa fraud is covered by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Devyani was strip searched, hand-cuffed, confined to a cell with drug addicts, and also subjected to DNA swabbing evoking a sense of outrage in India. US officials maintain she did not enjoy diplomatic immunity. Indian officials are accusing the US of taking an "extreme view" and interpreting the conventions to their advantage to justify their actions.

--IANS (Posted on 17-12-2013)

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