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If Davis was arrested in US, he would never get immunity
- Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - From Print Edition


ISLAMABAD: While Washington is putting tons of pressure on Islamabad to let Raymond Davis go under the cover of diplomatic immunity, the latest State Department guidelines on giving such immunity to diplomats of other countries within the US are eye-opening.


“If the US guidelines were followed and had the Davis case happened in any place within the US, Davis would have been treated exactly the same way he is being treated in Pakistan,” an expert who knows immunity procedures in both the countries observed.


The State Department has only recently issued directions to law enforcement and judicial authorities “not to let any criminal go in the garb of diplomatic immunity without police investigation and court order”.


“It is the policy of the US Department of State with respect to alleged criminal violations by persons with immunity from criminal jurisdiction to encourage law enforcement authorities to pursue investigations vigorously, to prepare cases carefully and completely, and to document properly each incident so that charges may be pursued as far as possible in the US judicial system,” Diplomatic and Consular Immunity Guidance for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities of the State Department, released in September 2010, says.


While Pakistan is being told that Davis had a licence to kill under the disputed immunity that he supposedly enjoys, the State Department guidelines say: “It should be emphasized that even at its highest level, diplomatic immunity does not exempt diplomatic officers from the obligation of conforming with national and local laws and regulations. Diplomatic immunity is not intended to serve as a licence for persons to flout the law and purposely avoid liability for their actions.”


These guidelines go on: “The purpose of these privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient and effective performance of their official missions on behalf of their governments. This is a crucial point for law enforcement officers to understand in their dealings with foreign diplomatic and consular personnel. While police officers are obliged, under international customary and treaty law, to recognize the immunity of the envoy, they must not ignore or condone the commission of crimes.”


While the US authorities and the murderer himself had admitted that he (Davis) was a member of Lahore Consulate, the US guidelines solve the riddle, for those who are still confused, by saying, “There is a common misunderstanding that consular personnel have diplomatic status and are entitled to diplomatic immunity.”


Regarding the identification of the diplomat, enjoying immunity, the State Department guidelines say, “IT IS CRITICAL FOR A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER to identify quickly and accurately the status of any person asserting immunity. The only authoritative identity document is the identity card issued by the US Department of State’s Office of Protocol...”


The same is the provision in Pakistan where the Foreign Office issues identity card to such diplomats. In case of Davis, it was never issued.


In such cases, the US State Department clearly states: “In all cases, including those in which the individual provides a US Department of State-issued identification card, the law enforcement officer should verify the immunity status with the US Department of State....”


Regarding the waiver of immunity, these guidelines say: “Diplomatic and consular immunity are not intended to benefit the individual; they are intended to benefit the mission of the foreign government or international organization. Thus an individual does not ‘own’ his or her immunity and it may be waived, in whole or in part, by the mission member’s government. The US Department of State will request a waiver of immunity in every case in which the prosecutor advises that he or she would prosecute but for immunity.”