In response to what was reported as a less than robust defense of the U.S. embassay in Cairo by Egyptian security forces on Wednesday, September 12, President Obama called President Mohamed Morsi and demanded effective defense of the embassy and clear statements and efforts aimed at defusing the situation.
David D. Kirkpatrick, Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, “Egypt, Hearing From Obama, Moves to Heal Rift From Protests,”
Catherine Poe, “An angry President Obama warns Morsi and Egypt to protect American Embassy or else,” The Washington Times, September 14, 2012.
Morsi and the Egyptian government, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, got the message. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, dated September 13, Khairat El-Shater, the Deputy President of the Muslim Brotherhood, wrote the following:
To the Editor:
Today’s world is a global village; nations are closer than ever before. In such a world, respect for values and figures — religious or otherwise — that nations hold dear is a necessary requirement to build sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships.
Despite our resentment of the continued appearance of productions like the anti-Muslim film that led to the current violence, we do not hold the American government or its citizens responsible for acts of the few that abuse the laws protecting freedom of expression.
In a new democratic Egypt, Egyptians earned the right to voice their anger over such issues, and they expect their government to uphold and protect their right to do so. However, they should do so peacefully and within the bounds of the law.
The breach of the United States Embassy premises by Egyptian protesters is illegal under international law. The failure of the protecting police force has to be investigated.
We are relieved that no embassy staff in Cairo were harmed. Egypt is going through a state of revolutionary fluidity, and public anger needs to be dealt with responsibly and with caution. Our condolences to the American people for the loss of their ambassador and three members of the embassy staff in Libya.
We hope that the relationships that both Americans and Egyptians worked to build in the past couple of months can sustain the turbulence of this week’s events. Our nations have much to learn from each other as we embark on building the new Egypt.
Deputy President, Muslim Brotherhood
Cairo, Sept. 13, 2012
–‘Our Condolences,’ the Muslim Brotherhood Says, Letter to the Editor, New York Times, September 13, 2012.
It may be that Morsi feels he has to consult with other Muslim Brotherhood leaders on critically important issues. That does not justify bad decisions. Still, his reassurances through various channels, though tardy, are welcome.
There can be no excuse for the failure of Egyptian security forces to effectively defend the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Wednesday, September 12. Egypt, and virtually all other countries are obligated to defend and protect foreign diplomatic and consular missions under customary international law and under the specific terms of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Article 22 of the Vienna Concention on Diplomatic Relations provides, for example,
1. The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
2. The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity (emphasis added).
3. The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.
Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations contains similar language.
There are no reasons whatsoever that would justify the host country (or “the receiving state”, in the language of the treaties) to fail to comply fully with these provisions.
The Trenchant Observer