Diplomatic Immunity

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
I was recently watching an episode of Law and Order... and I have to say... that show is getting more and more unrealistic as time goes on. So because of this Episode, I have an opinion scenario for everyone...

A young man "supposedly" leaves the United States, New York to be exact, to do some missionary work in a rather poor country... lets say the country has a communist government that isn't on the best of terms with the United States. While the man is in that country, he starts speaking out against the current regime and even supports a rebel faction to overthrow the government.

This young man is captured and is interrogated by one of the higher-up generals in that country's military. Upon the man's refusal to answer questions, he is put through torture, and eventually executed.

The General who gave the order for his torture and execution a year later comes to New York to speak on diplomatic issues, and recieve medical aid. He has Diplomatic immunity. Yet somehow, a persistant DA finds a way around the Immunity, and has the General arrested for murder.

Given the following facts, should he be found guilty:
He had diplomatic immunity

By definition, what the young man was doing, in this country is considered terrorism

If he is found guilty, whats to stop another country from doing the same to one of our diplomats
 

Drakon

Spaceman
If an American were to go to another country and attempt to overthrow it's government it would be a heinous crime there and justify whatever punishment that country has earmarked for such an act. If a terrorist came to the United States to launch some sort of attack, he was captured and then executed, the judge who sentenced him certainly wouldn't be vulnerable to being found guilty of murder and punished accordingly in the country from wence the terrorist came. It gets fuzzy I imagine in high-profile situations when politics gets involved, but laws are laws wherever one is and people should be expected to follow them (or simply not go in the first place). If that general you speak of comes to New York and he is prosecuted, it is done so unjustly as diplomatic immunity exists for that very reason. If he commited a crime while in the states that would change things perhaps, but that doesn't seem to be a factor from what you said. Correct me if I'm wrong though, I'm just saying what seems logical here. :D
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
We would need more details. Diplomatic Immunity generally isn't the boogieman it's portrayed as in fiction - it's an umbrella term for a whole host of diffrent kinds of legal status... many of which grant forms of immunity *only* to persons while they're engaged in their diplomatic duties.

Furthermore, it's not an absolute - countries can waive a diplomat's right to immunity. This is exactly what happened in the high-profile case Law and Order pulls this sort of story from, in which a Georgian diplomat killed a young girl while driving drunk. Georgia waved his right to immunity and he was tried and convicted of manslaughter in the US.
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
We would need more details. Diplomatic Immunity generally isn't the boogieman it's portrayed as in fiction - it's an umbrella term for a whole host of diffrent kinds of legal status... many of which grant forms of immunity *only* to persons while they're engaged in their diplomatic duties.

Furthermore, it's not an absolute - countries can waive a diplomat's right to immunity. This is exactly what happened in the high-profile case Law and Order pulls this sort of story from, in which a Georgian diplomat killed a young girl while driving drunk. Georgia waved his right to immunity and he was tried and convicted of manslaughter in the US.

Right, I completely agree here. But in this case, we're not talking about a girl killed in our country, which is a ruling I would agree with as well.

What I don't agree with in this episode, even if he didn't have diplomatic immunity, should this General be prosecuted?

The kid was committing an act of terrorism in a foreign land by trying to aid in the overthrow of that country's government. Around here that is a crime that can be severely punished. I guess the question I'm seeking an answer to is does this country have the right to prosecute a foreign official who passed Judgement on a foreign terrorist who came from America, when America passes judgement on foriegn terrorists all the time.
 

Delance

Victory, you say?
What I don't agree with in this episode, even if he didn't have diplomatic immunity, should this General be prosecuted?

He certainly could. It's quite normal for nations to have laws against people killing their citzens, even outside their borders.

The kid was committing an act of terrorism in a foreign land by trying to aid in the overthrow of that country's government. Around here that is a crime that can be severely punished. I guess the question I'm seeking an answer to is does this country have the right to prosecute a foreign official who passed Judgement on a foreign terrorist who came from America, when America passes judgement on foriegn terrorists all the time.

If the american in question did something considered criminal by American law, then no, this general could not be convicted. If an American was sentenced to death on a foreign land of a crime (say, murder) and was executed, then the judge could not be persecuted on the US. However, in this case, it’s clear that whatever process resulted in the death of the american was was not considered valid, and was simply considered to be an assassination. In this case, yes, the general can be convicted. Diplomatic immunity, in all likehood, wouldn’t cover him in this case.

Alas, it should be noticed that a general, by definition, should not have the power to convict or execute people in normal circumstances, even on crazy communist countries.

To simply say it was "terrorism" is irrelevante, the cuban government thinks people trying to escape Cuba are terrorists, for example.
 

Mancubus

Rear Admiral
The first thing you should note - you should NEVER EVER think of communist dictatorship is in any way comparable to a democratic government - and I know what I'm saying. Note, that many U.S. citizens were somehow connected to the anti-government movements in many communist countries including poland. And almost everyone here is grateful to everyone who helped to overthrow it.

the only reason Walesa and other workers in Gdansk Shipyard weren't called terrorists by the communists, is because the term wasn't popular in the eastern block in erly 1980's
 

Drakon

Spaceman
I don't know, one man's "terrorist" is another's "freedom fighter." Such labels are a little meaningless, as anyone who resorts to violence to do anything is, by definition, a terrorist to somebody else. It's an interesting balance though being explained here between what can and can't warrant persecution, but, sidetracking for just a moment to Poland, I'd like to point out that judging a regime by the system it uses alone doesn't make sense. The United States and Soviet Union for example were both democracies to start out with. They both had constitutions that went to great lengths to guarantee numerous individual freedoms, liberties, and rights to protect people. This is obviously ironic for the latter of the two, but before any rules were broken that's how it was. Don't get me wrong, my sympathies to the Poles who went through hell under the reign of bad men, but my point is that it wasn't communism that oppressed people, it was the corrupt, ruthless, and selfish lot who hid behind it (and in a few countries still do). ;)

That aside, does anybody here know where the line is drawn with the diplomatic immunity exactly? I read here that it can be wavered by a government or made null and void if a crime is commited that would also be a crime in the other. What if, say that general we started out with ordered that American's execution, but rather for a different crime. In the United States the acts would be minor misdemeanors, but perhaps in the other country much graver in nature. So, is the general/judge/crazy dude still protected, or does the draconian punishment change things? Bizarre questions I guess, but this is a little confusing and riddled with possible "what if" loopholes.

Are there excpetions, a concern over disproportional punishments, or political backlash if a country stretches things concerning this concept? Also, do countries respect diplomatic immunity more often than not, or do governments sometimes take certain unwarranted liberties? Hehehe, it's quite the unusual subject but very interesting. :)
 

Nob Akimoto

Rear Admiral
In theory the general can be prosecuted under the nexus of the concept of a "universal crime" which has no jurisdictional limitations based on territorial sovereignty. "Diplomatic Immunity" as its defined by the Vienna Conventions refers primarily to legal and civil infractions committed within the borders of the host state (and can be waived for a variety of circumstances.) Torture and murder generally fall under the guise of universal crimes, particularly against your own nationals, so it's probably possible to prosecute this general, diplomatic agent or not.

However, the supposed hypothetical example provided would be more likely to be upheld under a congressional act (see: United States v. Bin Laden) rather than under a local D.A.'s moves.

At best this would get punted through the various appelate courts, and at worst it would cause a significant international incident.
 
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