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US hypocrisy over diplomatic immunity: US Embassy and Consular Employees Deserve It, Foreign Diplomats Not So Much

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By Dave Lindorff


Who deserves immunity: a killer or alleged visa fraudster? (
(Image by ThisCantBeHappening!))
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The diplomatic brouhaha between the US and India over a federal arrest and multiple strip-search and cavity search of a high-ranking Indian consular official in New York has exposed the astonishing hypocrisy of the US when it comes to the issue of diplomatic immunity.

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India's government is outraged not just at the abusive treatment Deputy Consul General for Political, Economic, Commercial and Women's Affairs, Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested a few days ago by US State Department Agents and charged with lying on a visa application for her Indian housekeeper. It is claiming that as a diplomat in the country's New York consulate, she is entitled to diplomatic immunity.

The US is denying that she has diplomatic immunity, because she is a consular official, not an embassy official. The difference is important. Larger countries like the US and India often have many consular offices in cities of larger countries, primarily to handle visa and other issues, both for citizens of the home country, and for citizens of the host country who may wish to travel to the home country. But each country is allowed only one embassy in a foreign country, with the primary purpose being conducting diplomacy. Embassies are thus always located in the capital city of the host nation.

Denying Deputy Consul General Khobragade immunity might be okay, because under the Vienna Conventions governing Embassies and Consulates, consular officials only are granted limited immunity. Specifically, they are immune from prosecution for crimes involving their performance of consular business, but not for crimes outside of their official duties. Embassy employees, however, have broader immunity. The only exception, which applies to both Embassy and Consular officials, is "serious crimes," such as rape or murder, where a host country can over-ride immunity, even of an ambassador.

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Arguably, Deputy Consul General Khobragade's alleged crime of lying on a visa document (about the amount she was planning to pay in wages) for an Indian woman she was bringing to the US as a housekeeper, would fall outside of her official duties, which would allow the US to prosecute her.

However, the US has often taken a different view of such matters, when it is on the other side of a case"


For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in  ThisCantBeHappening!, the new four-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to:


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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)

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