Overview of Some Basic Key Provisions of the United Nations Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Some Privileges Enjoyed By Diplomats
As earlier noted, the United Nations Vienna convention on diplomatic relations is a treaty that is aimed at promoting friendly relations among governments through a uniform set of principles. It is very important to take into consideration some key provisions in this treaty that allows for this harmonious relationship between countries.
Firstly, it is expedient to underscore the fact that the Host nation at any time and for any reason can declare a particular member of the diplomatic staff to be persona non grata. The sending state must recall this person within a reasonable period of time, or otherwise, this person may lose diplomatic immunity. In diplomacy, “persona non grata” is a status applied by a host country to foreign diplomats to remove their protection of diplomatic immunity from arrest and other types of prosecution. The implication of this is that a person so declared is considered unacceptable and is usually recalled to his or her home nation. If not recalled, the receiving state “may refuse to recognize the person concerned as a member of the mission”. A person can be declared persona non grata before that person even enters the country.
With the protection of mission staff from prosecution for violating civil and criminal laws, depending on rank, under Articles 41 and 42 of the Convention, they are bound to respect national laws and regulations. Breaches of these articles can lead to a persona non grata declaration being used to punish erring staff. It is also used to expel diplomats suspected of espionage, described as “activities incompatible with diplomatic status”, or any overt criminal act such as drug trafficking. The declaration may also be a symbolic indication of displeasure.
Also, the premises of a diplomatic mission, diplomatic premiers are the houses of ambassadors and are inviolable and must not be entered by the host country except by permission of the head of the mission; likewise, the host country must never search the premises, may not seize its documents or property, and must protect the mission from intrusion or damage. Article 30 extends this provision to the private residence of the diplomats.
Furthermore, another key provision of the treaty is that the host country must permit and protect free communication between the diplomats of the mission and their home country. A diplomatic bag must never be opened, even on suspicion of abuse, and a diplomatic courtier must never be arrested or detained. Also, the convention further reveals that Diplomats must not be liable for any form of arrest or detention, and the receiving state must make all efforts to protect their person and dignity. Diplomats are immune from the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the host state, with exceptions for professional activities outside the diplomat’s official functions. Article 32 permits sending states to waive this immunity.
Lastly, Diplomatic missions are exempt from taxes and customs duties. Family members of diplomats living in the host country enjoy most of the same protections as the diplomats themselves.