In the uproar concerning of the US mistreatment of their Lady Diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, the Indian government has pointed out that the United States saw things quite differently just two years ago when the tables were turned.
In 2011, CIA operative Raymond Allen Davis killed two robbers in Lahore, Pakistan, using an illegal weapon. His defense was that one of them had drawn his weapon on him in order to rob him. While the Pakistanis charged him with murder and wanted him to stand trial, the United States took the position that he was a consular employee and therefore he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Barack Obama himself said that Davis should be returned on the grounds of reciprocity (see video of Obama’s very interesting plea). The US claimed that Davis was a “technial advisor for the American Consulate in Lahore”. Yet Pakistani lawyer, Mirza Shahzad Akbarm, argued that Pakistan had the right to hold Davis, as he was attached only to a Consulate:
The governing instrument of International Law for diplomatic immunity is called Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, and a lot has been said about this already in press and on TV. However no one has paid attention to a similar treaty of just two years later, called Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 which was adopted by Pakistan through Diplomatic and Consular Privileges Act 1972.
This Convention governs immunities and privileges accorded to Consulate members and its staff. The word “consular post” is defined in Article 1 of 1963 Convention as any consulate general, consulate, vice consulate or consular agency, and consular officer is defined as any person, including the head of a consular post, entrusted in that capacity with the exercise of consular functions.
After understanding these two definitions given in Vienna Convention of 1963, one needs to read Article 41 (1) which says: “Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority”.
Now having read the law, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that if a member of US Consulate in Lahore kills someone, he is answerable to a court of law in that jurisdiction, as there is no other crime more heinous or more grave than murder.
Now when it comes to the case of Devyani Khobragade, the US turns around and uses Mirza Shahzad Akbarm’s argument to deny Khobragade’s immunity, stating that she is only attached to the Indian Consulate and therefore she must stand trial for her act of lying on Visa application papers and paying her nanny less than minimum wage. Since Obama pleaded for Davis’ release, then Khobragade should enjoy diplomatic immunity, a fortiori. For one thing, no one has yet claimed that she was spying on the United States, and it does seem, at least to me, that her alleged crimes are less serious than murder. The claim that she is guilty of human trafficking and enslavement of her nanny is an exaggeration.
Generally speaking, I just see this as unadulterated hypocrisy. United States diplomacy thus needs a generous spritzing of PooPourri.