Saudi diplomats escape drink-driving prosecution as Pakistani officials accused of rape and kidnapping
They have been protected from British law by diplomatic immunity
Wednesday 16 July 2014
Two Saudi diplomats accused of drink-driving in the UK have escaped prosecution, despite the offence being punishable by brutal lashings in ther own country.
They were among foreign officials suspected of 14 crimes who are protected from British law by diplomatic immunity.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has revealed a list of the most serious alleged offences in 2013, including representatives from Pakistan accused of rape and child abduction, and a Zambian diplomat implicated in a sexual assault case.
A diplomat from Kuwait, where alcohol is strictly banned, was also accused of drink-driving.
Mark Simmonds, an FCO minister, revealed all “serious and significant” offences allegedly committed by diplomats to Parliament on Tuesday.
He said that the Metropolitan Police’s Diplomatic Protection Group had alerted the Government to 14 cases in total.
“The number of alleged serious crimes committed by members of the diplomatic community in the UK is proportionately low,” Mr Simmonds said.
“The FCO does not tolerate foreign diplomats breaking the law.”
The Saudi diplomats accused of drink-driving could be sent back to their home country, where the draconian ban on alcohol has been enforced with corporal punishment under Islamic law.
In 2002, British businessman Gary O'Nions was sentenced to 800 lashes, jailed for eight years and fined £400,000 after being convicted of running an illegal drinking den.
Saudi Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al-Saud, by contrast, was freed after three years of his life sentence for murdering his manservant in a sexually motivated attack at a London hotel.
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The unnamed officials are among 21,500 people granted diplomatic immunity in the UK, meaning they are not subject to British laws unless their country grants a waiver.
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, those entitled to immunity are expected to obey the law, and if allegations are brought to light the relevant foreign government can be asked to rescind the privilege so they can be investigated.
Mark Simmonds said the UK does everything in its power to investigate diplomats accused of crimes The FCO made that request for five of the most serious cases last year, Mr Simmonds said, including the rape and child abduction allegedly involving Pakistani diplomats.
But although Pakistan’s government partially lifted immunity in one case so the diplomat could be interviewed by police, there is no legal obligation to comply with the British request.
Two other implicated officials were voluntarily recalled, a fourth person was asked to leave the UK by the FCO and a fifth case continues.
The FCO would not confirm which allegations the interview or any other action concerned or give details on the progress of investigations.
Amnesty International expressed concern about diplomatic immunity blocking criminal investigations.
Allan Hogarth, Amnesty UK’s head of policy and government affairs, said: “Diplomatic immunity must not mean impunity. Serious abuses must be investigated and justice pursued.”
Mr Simmonds said his department takes all allegations of illegal activity seriously and if a waiver of diplomatic immunity is not granted in the most serious cases, it requests the person leaves the country immediately.
The minister’s statement did not include allegations of minor criminal offences or wrongdoing, only including crimes that can be punished by a year or more in prison, drink-driving and driving without insurance.
The Saudi Arabian and Pakistani embassies could not be reached for a comment.
The FCO’s full list of “serious and significant offences” involving diplomats in 2013:
Driving a vehicle reported as lost or stolen and without insurance:
Sierra Leone 1
Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and without insurance:
El Salvador 1
Driving under the influence of alcohol:
Saudi Arabia 2, Belarus 1, Macedonia 1, Kuwait 1, Zambia 1
Actual Bodily Harm:
Cameroon 1, Zambia 1
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