Late this past November, it was reported that the British government had made overtures of an official protest after claiming that Spanish authorities had opened a diplomatic bag that was in transit between Gibraltar and the UK.
From the linked article:
Opening a diplomatic bag would be a breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a treaty signed in 1961 that sets out the rules on how countries should treat each others’ diplomats.
When I saw this report, it made me think of the whole Benghazi Incident, back on September 11, 2012, in which four Americans, including out Ambassador, were murdered in Libya. All along, one of the part of this incident that I feel has been over looked is just how grave this action was. The biggest story should have been that our Ambassador was killed. You see, I didn’t know the legal specifics, but I had heard of “diplomatic immunity” and also, as far as I understood it, the Ambassador to a country ranks only behind the Head of State of their home country actually being on the foreign soil.
So I did some Googling and, almost inevitably, ended up on the Wikipedia page for the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. So, what does this convention say? Well, there are 53 Articles to the Convention, so I was thankful for the Wikipedia page’s summary! The Wikipedia pages list summaries of just a handful of them, but the most important one is there:
Article 22. The premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolate and must not be entered by the host country except by permission of the head of the mission. Furthermore, the host country must protect the mission from intrusion or damage. The host country must never search the premises, nor seize its documents or property. Article 30 extends this provision to the private residence of the diplomats.
So, as far as I can see, the government of Libya, (who have signed and ratified this Convention), should have been helping to defend the diplomatic people and premises that were attacked, in Benghazi.
In fact, there is another international convention from 1973, called the Protection of Diplomats Convention. According, again, to the Wikipedia summary of the Convention:
“Parties to the convention agree to criminalise (sic) the commission of murders or kidnappings of internationally protected persons as well as violent attacks against the official premises, private accommodation, or means of transport of such persons.”
Of course, it could be that the premises in Benghazi were, themselves, breaking these same Conventions…
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