I REFER to “A grave injustice” (Sunday Star, April 4) which argued that “... it is high time that the international community take a hard look at the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to curb further abuse of this ancient principle of immunity”.
The writer was disgusted that in two road accident cases, diplomats in the receiving countries (a Romanian in Singapore last year and an American in Vladivostok, Russia, in 1998) claimed diplomatic immunity, and that the sending states refused to waive immunity.
It is possible for the officials’ home country, even though a signatory to the Vienna Convention, to waive immunity; this tends to only happen when the individual has committed a serious crime unconnected with his diplomatic role, or has witnessed such a crime.
Many countries, nevertheless, refuse to waive immunity as a matter of course. Alternatively, the home country may prosecute an offending individual.
Malaysia is one country that does not take lightly any crime committed by its diplomats in the host country. Usually the officer will be seriously reprimanded by the Foreign Ministry or may even be called home.
By and large our diplomats do carry the Malaysian flag with pride and maintain the good name of the country.
Road accident involving serious injuries or death is a different thing and must be viewed on a case by case basis.
But to waive diplomatic immunity for an officer to stand trial in the host country has never been done by Malaysia for obvious reasons.
In foreign relations, the sovereignty of the country comes first. No country, no matter how right it is, can with impunity call upon and demand the sending country to extradite the official concerned to stand trial under the host country’s law.
It is a question of pride, image, and territorial integrity. It is all about the spirit of the 1961 Vienna Convention.
I agree with the writer that “... in this age when human rights, fairness and justice override everything else, innocent victims must be accorded recourse against personal abuses of immunity ...”.
Unless all countries are civilised enough and respect the rules governing a diplomat, diplomatic immunity is subject to one’s interpretation.