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Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations |

Criticism of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

Key Issues

  • These international conventions are always undermined by powerful countries such as USA, China etc. In case of violation of this convention, the last resort is International Court of Justice (ICJ) and USA has not accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of ICJ in violation of this convention.
  • The recent detention and strip searching of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in USA for charges of violation of domestic minimum wage law is against diplomatic immunity provided under Vienna convention. But many times USA undermines even heinous crime charges against diplomats such as:
    • A case of 1981 in USA – A person who had beaten and raped a woman in Manhattan Street has been detained on charges of assault and rape by New York Carol Holmes. But he was the son of a diplomat at Ghana’s Embassy, and therefore protected by diplomatic immunity.
    • Also recently earlier this month, New York authorities prevented to arrest 49 Russian diplomat or consular officials for charge of embezzling millions.

In USA, executives has exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether an alien in USA has diplomatic immunity or not and such determination is not subject to judicial review.

  • The immunities to Diplomats under Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations is provided for better working of diplomatic missions without any fear or coercion but actually these immunities are misused by many of diplomats to prove their supremacy over ordinary citizens of resident country.
  • Article 41 of Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations says that all communication with local entity or receiving state shall be conducted through sending state. So many modern diplomats who are using blog, Twitter and Facebook would be considered persona non grata as using or communicating without permission of their nation.
  • Article 29 of Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations says that receiving state shall take appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person (the diplomats), freedom or dignity. But Convention doesn’t specify level of protection as in last decade many of diplomats has killed in high crime cities or countries especially in African and West Asian countries.
  • Italian Sub Marine’s Case – The recent Supreme Court order (Mar, 2013) of restraining Italian ambassador from leaving India and possibility of contempt of court proceedings is really controversial as diplomat enjoys immunity from criminal jurisdiction as provided under article 31 of convention. Actually ambassador submits affidavit on behalf of 2 Italian marines who are alleged to murder to leave India for purpose of voting and got approval from court but didn’t come back or even Italian govt refuse to send them back but it is still not enough to waive off immunity of diplomatic agent under Vienna convention.


  • The immunities of diplomats shall be subjected to limitation for protection of human rights as if diplomat killed someone in receiving state then family of died person can’t approach to court for justice.
  • The level protection of Diplomats need to be defined specifically especially in civil war or high crime rate countries.
  • As per modern times, the internet or social media shall be defined specifically under Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations to allow security and free flow of communication b/w diplomats and sending state or local entity.

Although diplomatic immunity is misused many times but it is quite necessary to provide immunity in liberal times due to interdependence of countries for essential commodities or for balance of payments etc. Also many reports or studies says that percentage of abuses to affect fundamental human rights is relatively small.

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