Can a Diplomat Really Get Away with Murder?

By Stone, Daniel; Picon, Michael | Newsweek, September 27, 2010 | Go to article overview

Can a Diplomat Really Get Away with Murder?


Stone, Daniel, Picon, Michael, Newsweek


Byline: Daniel Stone and Michael Picon

Essentially, yes. Diplomatic immunity exists to theoretically prevent local legal disputes from interfering with the high-minded work of statecraft. Embassy and consular staff who violate laws may in rare cases face consequences back home, but while in their host countries, they can walk away from a range of crimes:

Traffic fines: In New York--where the United Nations convenes this week for its 65th general assembly--foreign officials have racked up 200,000 unpaid parking tickets over the past 15 years. That's $20 million the city can't collect. It goes both ways, though: the U.K. isn't holding its breath for $5 million in traffic fines from U.S. diplomats working in London.

Theft: The next most common offense of foreign agents in Washington? Sticky fingers, according to one State Department review. When the Secret Service arrested a Mexican diplomat in New Orleans in 2008 for allegedly stealing White House staffers' BlackBerrys and other technology, the man cited his immunity, got on a plane, and left the country scot-free. …

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Can a Diplomat Really Get Away with Murder?
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