Privileges and Immunities

Privileges and Immunities

From the earliest times, privileges, immunities, and courtesies were extended to visiting heralds and envoys. Currently the privileges and immunities of diplomats are highly developed and universally accepted.

History of Privileges and Immunities

For centuries, the territory on which a foreign mission stood was considered an “island of sovereignty” of the home state. Under the Vienna Convention of 1961 this is no longer the case. The premises of missions are inviolable, however, and host states must accord full facilities to enable diplomatic missions to perform their functions. Citizens of the host state may not enter a mission without the consent of its senior official. Missions are immune from search, requisition, and attachment, and nations have a special duty to protect any mission against intrusion or damage. This long-accepted principle was violated in Iran in November 1979, when a group of Iranians invaded the U.S. Embassy and held some 50 staff members hostage for 14 months.

Diplomatic Rights

Free communication between the mission and the host government must be permitted. Diplomatic couriers may not be detained, and diplomatic bags may not be opened or detained. Host governments must also secure these rights against their own citizens if necessary.

Diplomatic agents and their staffs are not liable to any form of arrest or detention; diplomats are immune from criminal laws and, in most cases, from civil and administrative jurisdiction as well. They are exempt from all direct taxes in the host state. Immunity from the laws of a host state does not exempt diplomats from the laws and jurisdiction of their home states, however. Those who commit crimes are almost always sent home as personae non gratae. Diplomats enjoying their privileges and immunities are duty bound to respect the laws and regulations of the host state and to refrain from interfering in its internal affairs.

In the event of war, the host state must grant facilities to enable diplomats from belligerent nations to leave the country. If diplomatic relations are broken off with another nation, the host state must still respect and protect the mission premises. When relations are broken off, the countries in question usually entrust the custody of their missions and interests to some third party acceptable to both.

Source: “Diplomacy” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia

Further References about Diplomacy

Department of Foreign Affairs information.
Department of State information.
Diplomatic Missions information.
Foreign Services information.
Diplomatic Negotations information

Privileges and Immunities (Law Materials)

In this section, find out some resources in relation to Privileges and Immunities legal materials.


See Also

  • Law Materials


See Also

Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court
MPEPIL: Immunities
History of Diplomacy
MPEPIL: Diplomacy and consular relations
Treaties resources
Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
International Law

Further Reading

Diplomacy and peace. Bibliography
Diplomacy and Coffee (Book)



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