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Diplomatic Community

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

Ask anyone who’s ever travelled regionally in a car with diplomatic plates and they’ll tell you what a pleasure it is.  You breeze through international borders without having even to stop or queue and you are waived through any roadside police or military checkpoints. 

The reason for this is that the vehicles’ occupants automatically enjoy ‘diplomatic immunity’, defined in international legal terms as ‘the immunities enjoyed by foreign states or international organisations and their official representatives from the jurisdiction of the country in which they are present’.  These immunities are a time-honoured tradition dating back several millennia, coming about at first through courtesy and custom but over the centuries gradually being enshrined in international law, a privilege which ensured exchanges of information, maintained contact and granted messengers safe-conduct.

Traditional mechanisms of protecting diplomats included religious-based codes of hospitality and the frequent use of priests as emissaries.   In the ancient world Greek heralds, recognised as inviolable by the city-states, procured safe passage for envoys prior to negotiations and as empires in China, India, and the Mediterranean grew more powerful, diplomatic protections decreased. The law of diplomatic immunity was significantly developed by the Romans, who grounded the protection of envoys in religious and natural law, guaranteeing the unassailability of ambassadors even after the outbreak of war.

During the Middle Ages in Europe, envoys and their entourages continued to enjoy the right of safe passage,  By the Renaissance permanent embassies developed, and the number of embassy personnel as well as the immunities accorded to them expanded, treating diplomats, their residences, and their goods as though they were located outside the host country—under the doctrine of ‘quasi extra territorium’ (Latin: “as if outside the territory”),  developed by the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) to sanction such privileges. 

Later treaties—such the 17th-century agreement between England and the Ottoman Empire that forbade searches of the British embassy, exempted the servants of embassies from taxes, and allowed the ambassador wine for his own use –  and statues such as the Act of Anne (1709) in England exempted ambassadors from civil suit and arrest – further cemented such privileges and immunites.

By the late 19th century, the expansion of European empires had spread the convention throughout the world.   However, such privileges carry with them the possibility of abuse and the position of diplomats and the public respect they enjoyed declined substantially in the 20th century.

This development, combined with certain other factors including the substantial growth in the number of new states after World War II, an increase in the size of diplomatic missions, and the increasing prevalence in international law of the view known as functionalism (according to which diplomatic privileges should be limited to those necessary to enable a diplomat to accomplish his mission)—led eventually to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), which restricted the privileges granted to diplomats, their families, and staff. Avoiding controversial issues such as diplomatic asylum and focusing on permanent envoys,  the convention accorded immunity from criminal prosecution and from some civil jurisdiction to diplomats and their families and lesser levels of protection to staff members, who generally were given immunity only for acts committed in the course of their official duties.

So that is a potted history of the convention of diplomatic immunity and the noble reasons by which it came  about  but the drawback is that it relies somewhat on the  conscience and moralities of differing national missions.  Transgressions range from the trivial ‘pushing their luck’ offences, such as refusal to pay parking fines (it’s estimated by the British Foreign Office that diplomats currently owe £100m ((P1500m) in unpaid congestions charges alone) to the very serious. 

One high-profile case involved PC Yvonne Fletcher, a London Metropolitan Police officer who died policing a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984 after being hit by gunfire from a first-floor embassy window.  After an 11-day siege of the building, the UK government arranged for the deportation of a number of Libyan diplomats but diplomatic immunity meant the police could not search the bags of the diplomats and staff being deported and thus identify the culprit. 

In 2017, there were 12 serious offences allegedly committed by people entitled to diplomatic protection in the UK, five being driving related but other crimes included sexual assault, blackmail and possession of a firearm and let’s not forget the case of Julian Assange, an Australian national who sheltered in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid facing sexual assault charges in Sweden and extradition to the USA for his role as founder of Wikileaks for almost 7 years, finally being forcibly removed in April this year.

The immunity controversy has reared its ugly head again in the past week with the case of Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a  US diplomat based in the UK who was questioned by British police after she was allegedly involved in a car accident which killed teenager Harry Dunn in August.  Having assured the police that she would make herself available for possible further questioning, Mrs. Sacoolas was spirited out of the country and back to the USA by private jet last weekend, under the umbrella of diplomatic immunity, an act which is causing a major furore.  Harry Dunn’s grieving family have appealed to her better nature, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a formal appeal to his US counterpart, Donald Trump, to review the situation and the British press has taken up the cudgel on the family’s behalf.

It’s a tricky one.  Firstly, Mrs. Sacoolas had not been charged with any offence before she left and secondly because as the wife of a serving mission staff member she  would have been covered by the diplomatic immunity umbrella of the Vienna Convention.  The latter, however, is not universally extended to serious crimes.  One comparable precedent occurred in the United States in 1997 where a Georgian diplomat killed an American teenager in a car accident. 

Georgia removed the diplomat's immunity and he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.  However,  it is also a convention that the US State Department  closes ranks where its own citizens are concerned and an official statement commented that  diplomatic immunity was "rarely waived".

Policy is  policy and it seems unlikely that Mrs. Sacoolas will be surrendered to British authorities any time soon.  But then again, that hundred million pound unpaid congestion charge bill stands  even less chance of being paid any time soon.    Diplomatic immunity is an honoured protocol but in the words of Hamlet perhaps occasionally it should be ‘a custom more honoured in the breech than in the observance’.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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