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What Is Diplomatic Immunity?

When a foreign diplomat is charged with an offense or violation, he or she may not be prosecuted or charged because he or she is given diplomatic immunity. This is a kind of legal immunity extended by governments to high-level diplomats in order to prevent any kind of lawsuit or prosecution if a violation or offense was committed in host country’s jurisdiction.

The idea of diplomatic immunity was agreed upon by countries during the Vienna Convention on International Relations in 1861. Since then, the idea of diplomatic immunity has evolved to consider circumstances that contemporary foreign diplomats may find themselves in. Such circumstances may involve dealing with hostile situations.

The host country, upon reception of the foreign diplomat, extends diplomatic immunity to him or her upon the agreement that the country of origin of the diplomat does the same to the diplomats of the foreign country. However, this is not the only reason as to why diplomatic immunity is given. The primary reason for diplomatic immunity lies in the fulfillment of the obligations that the foreign diplomat may have. The Vienna Conventions provided the rules and guidelines as to how diplomatic immunity is given. Thus, a standard exists for all countries to abide by when exercising diplomatic immunity.

There exist circumstances as well wherein diplomatic immunity is waived or revoked. These instances often involve criminal action committed by the foreign diplomat that is in no manner related to his or her fulfillment of his or her obligations. Diplomatic immunity may only be waived by the diplomat’s country of origin.

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