“OCCUPYING” DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS: A CRIMINAL ACT AND A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE CONDUCT OF DIPLOMACY

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World-Map-450Over the past weeks the Eritrean Embassies in London, Rome and Cairo suffered organized and premeditated attacks by small groups of individuals. The attackers vandalized the buildings, attempted to occupy, seize and break into the Ambassadors offices as well as destroy documents. They also insulted and intimidated the staff. These acts are serious breaches of the inviolability of the person of diplomatic agent and diplomatic premises as codified in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) of 1961. These organized forced intrusions and seizures of diplomatic premises pose a grave threat to the conduct of diplomatic activities between States. Therefore, these criminal acts do not only concern the Government of Eritrea but also the countries that are hosting different Embassies and, indeed of all peace-loving nations.

The crimes committed against the Eritrean Embassies in London, Rome and Cairo and on their diplomatic agents are well documented by the respective Embassies security systems and the videos posted on the Internet by the perpetrators themselves.

The Vienna Convention clearly stipulates that the diplomatic premises and the person of the diplomatic agent are inviolable. The Convention specifies that the receiving State have an obligation to protect the premises of the mission against actions that intrude on or damage the mission, disturb the peace of the mission, or impair the dignity of the mission. Likewise, the receiving State is required to protect the diplomatic agent from any attack on his/her person, freedom and dignity.

These basic principles of the Vienna Convention are clearly articulated in the Conventions 53 Articles. To mention a few:

Article 22 reads:

  1. The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
  2. The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
  3. The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

Article 29 reads:

The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.

Article 30 reads:

  1. The private residence of a diplomatic agent shall enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the mission.
  2. His papers, correspondence and, except as provided in paragraph 3 of article 31, his property, shall likewise enjoy inviolability.

Moreover, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons of 1973 (one of the fourteen International Conventions against Terrorism) requires States to criminalize and punish with serious penalties attacks upon the person or liberty of a diplomatic agent; a violent attack upon the official premises, the private accommodations, or the means of transport of such person; a threat or attempt to commit such an attack; and an act constituting participation as an accomplice.

Once again as clearly articulated in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1973 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, whatever justification or excuse they want to give, the individuals and groups who “occupied,” seized and vandalized the Eritrean Embassies in London, Rome and Cairo and intimidated the staff, have not only violated the two Conventions, but they also have violated the domestic laws of the United Kingdom, Italy and Egypt. It is then the full responsibility of the U.K., Italian and Egyptian authorities to detain these criminals and bring them to justice.

It is not difficult to imagine what would have happened if people who claim to have dual citizenship attempt to occupy, seize or vandalize the British, Italian and Egyptian diplomatic missions abroad under the pretext of “it is our Embassy and we went in to get consular services”. Imagine also if an attempt was made to “occupy” American and Israeli Embassies, which are well protected by high walls, barbed wire, CCTV, armed personnel and armoured vehicles. Hence it is imperative that in handling the intrusions and attacks on the Eritrean Embassies, the host States show the same level of seriousness as they do in protecting the safety and dignity of their diplomatic missions and staff based in other countries.

Host States are also obligated to inform the sending State about the developments related to the issue. In addition to the bilateral communications, under UN General Assembly resolution 25/168 of 1980 entitled “Consideration of effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives” the receiving States are required to report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations the violations that occurred and the measures they have taken to prevent a repetition of similar violations. The host States are also expected to report to the Secretary-General on measures they have taken to bring to justice the offenders, and once concluded, the final outcome of the legal proceedings.

Source : Dehai