UPATE (December 19, 2013)
There is more to this case than first appears.
Saurabh Shukla (New Delhi), “Devyani Khobragade case reveals how row over maid’s visa lead to this diplomatic incident,” India Today, December 19, 2013 (updated 09:40 IST).
Juan Cole, “India Flap derives from America’s Gulag Practices and Far-Right Supreme Court,” Informed Consent (blog), December 19, 2013.
Original article published on December 18, 2013
On December 17, the New York Times reported the following:
(An Indian) diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, the deputy consul general in New York, was arrested last Thursday and accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her housekeeper and paying the housekeeper far less than the minimum legal wage. Indian officials said that Ms. Khobragade was arrested and handcuffed on the street as she was leaving her daughter at school, and that she was kept in a holding cell with drug addicts before she was released on $250,000 bail.
By far the most troubling part for Indians are assertions that Ms. Khobragade, 39, was strip-searched after her arrest. Some Indian newspapers published reports claiming that she was subjected to repeated cavity searches. The Indian national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon, has called such treatment “despicable” and “barbaric.”
The United States Marshals Service, in a statement, confirmed that Ms. Khobragade had been strip-searched, following “the same search procedures as other U.S.M.S. arrestees held within the general prisoner population in the Southern District of New York.” It said she was “placed in the available and appropriate cell.”
The arrest has caused outrage and reprisals in India.
Gardiner Harris, “Outrage in India, and Retaliation, Over a Female Diplomat’s Arrest in New York,” New York Times, December 17, 2013.
Narayan Lakshman,”Detention procedures applicable to Khobragade, US clarifies,” December 18, 2013.
Both the arrest and the manner in which it was carried out would appear to be in flagrant violation of international law.
The 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations establishes the following:
PERSONAL INVIOLABILITY OF CONSULAR OFFICERS
1. 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.
2. Except in the case specified in paragraph 1 of this Article, consular officers shall not be committed to prison or liable to any other form of restriction on their personal freedom save in execution of a judicial decision of final effect.
3. If criminal proceedings are instituted against a consular officer, he must appear before the competent authorities. Nevertheless, the proceedings shall be conducted with the respect due to him by reason of his official position and, except in the case specified in paragraph 1 of this Article, in a manner which will hamper the exercise of consular functions as little as possible. When, in the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 of this Article, it has become necessary to detain a consular officer, the proceedings against him shall be instituted with the minimum of delay.
It is hard to see how the term “grave crime” could be stretched to include the commission of fraud in assisting a house servant to secure a work permit and failing to pay the minimum wage to that house servant.
What were they thinking?
Maybe they hadn’t heard about the case against the Russian diplomats at the U.N.
In early December, 49 Russian diplomats from the Russian Mission to the United Nations were charged with Medicare fraud. However, they were not arrested due to the fact the authorities had been advised they had diplomatic immunity.
See Benjamin Weiser, “U.S. Says Diplomats Defrauded Medicaid,” New York Times, December 5, 2013.
Is this just sheer incompetence on the part of the Obama administration, or what?
It is clearly time for government officials in New York, Washington and elsewhere to be required to take a basic course in international law as a condition of their employment.
And to pass the final exam.
The Trenchant Observer