In simple terms, diplomatic immunity means that when a representative from one country visits another, they are not subject to the laws of the country that they entered. In fact, when they abuse the rules and laws where they visit, the government is essentially powerless to detain, prosecute, or imprison them. The only thing that the government can actually do is kick them out of the country.
Does that seem unfair to you? It doesn’t take long to search online and see that there are numerous cases where diplomats smuggle, steal, bribe, kidnap, attack, rape, and murder, and they get away with it because of this diplomatic immunity concept. To make things worse, diplomats are allowed to carry what is known as a diplomatic bag, in which similar international rules apply. Contents inside the bag, no matter if illegal, like drugs, weapons, or even a kidnapped person, can’t be searched or confiscated.
Now, that doesn’t mean to say that there is never any justice for any horrible crimes committed by diplomats. In many cases, offenders are tried by their own country when they commit something serious. But when so many crimes go unchecked, one has to wonder if diplomatic immunity is worth having around.
Why Does Diplomatic Immunity Exist?
The unspoken yet obvious answer is that diplomatic immunity exists because those in power want to retain and abuse their power when traveling abroad. However, the “politically correct” reason that diplomatic immunity exists is so that other nations will actually engage in diplomacy. Without immunity, it would be easy for nations to detain ambassadors and other leaders, creating hostage situations and hostility.
So, does this mean diplomatic immunity a good thing? It can be. For example, what happens when a country has a law that an ambassador unknowingly breaks? After all, if you accidentally run over a cow in India, or if you are in possession of at least 15 grams of marijuana in Singapore, you can be executed. Would it be worth going to war if a representative was killed over an arcane rule? Is it then reasonable for them to call upon immunity for political protection?
I have to wonder about that. Is it even worth trying to enter a country where someone’s life would be in danger because they don’t have immunity? If such a country is hostile to begin with, then maybe making a presence on their territory isn’t the brightest idea. The reality is that if a country wanted to detain someone, whether or not they have diplomatic immunity, then they will, so maybe it would be better to not to risk it.
That’s not to say that diplomacy shouldn’t be attempted. Modern day technology makes online meetings easy without even leaving the room, so why not utilize it from a safe distance, at least until any aggressive factors have been resolved?
The Hypocrisy of Diplomatic Immunity
Ultimately, is it fair to only give ambassadors protection when visiting foreign lands? Why not all tourists? Is it fair that an ambassador can be excused from an arcane crime while an ignorant tourist who commits the same crime would receive the full punishment? Shouldn’t there be some sort of tourist protection for all misdemeanors?
Here’s what it boils down to: Every citizen is required to follow the laws of the country that they live in, whether or not they agree with those laws. It shouldn’t be a surprise when a traveler is expected to follow the same laws of that land they visit, whether or not they agree with those laws. If tourists aren’t prepared to pay the penalty for breaking those laws, then they shouldn’t go. It shouldn’t be any different for diplomats, who are expected to be on their best behavior anyways as representatives.
Diplomatic Immunity Needs to Go
Although diplomatic relationships are not simple, the answer to diplomatic immunity is a simple one: Diplomats should be held accountable for their actions, just like everyone else, so the immunity thing needs to go.