HOST COUNTRY COMMITTEE CONSIDERS QUESTION OF PRIVILEGES, IMMUNITIES OF DIPLOMATIC COMMUNITY
HOST COUNTRY COMMITTEE CONSIDERS QUESTION OF PRIVILEGES, IMMUNITIES OF DIPLOMATIC COMMUNITY19971105
The Russian Federation had demanded that the United States issue an apology and punish those responsible for an incident involving its Permanent Representative and the New York City Police Department. Speaking at the Committee on Relations with the Host Country this morning, the representative of the Russian Federation said it was imperative to ensure that such incidents did not recur.
It was the responsibilty of the host country to provide normal working conditions for diplomatic missions, he added. In light of the incident, it appeared that those conditions had been seriously undermined.
The representative of the United States said a meeting of senior police commanders and the United States Mission had been convened for tomorrow, 6 November, by the New York City Chief of Police to discuss the matter. At that meeting, the United States Mission would remind the Police Department that diplomatic inviolability must be respected as a matter of United States and international law.
In an effort to ensure that such incidents did not occur in future, the United States Mission would again offer to provide briefings to police officers on principles of diplomatic immunity and diplomatic inviolability, he said.
Also this morning, the Committee approved the first three sections of its draft report, which was introduced by the Committee's Rapporteur, Emilia Castro de Barish (Costa Rica).
Statements were also made by the representatives of Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Malaysia and France, as well as by the Committee's Acting Chairman, John Holmes (Canada).
The Committee is tentatively scheduled to meet again on Thursday, 13 November.
__________ * Reissued to revise headline.
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on Relations with the Host Country met this morning to discuss questions of privileges and immunities. It was also expected to consider the draft report of the Committee (document A/AC.154/1997/CRP.2), as well as other matters.
Statement by Acting Committee Chairman
JOHN HOLMES (Canada), Acting Chairman, expressed sincere appreciation to Nicos Agathocleous (Cyprus) for his skilful leadership and devoted service to the Committee as its Chairman over the past two years. Mr. Agathocleous had helped to maintain an atmosphere of cooperation in the Committee during its deliberation on various issues of importance. Following consulatations among interested delegations, the Committee would elect a new Chairman, he added.
Statements on Privileges and Immunities
ALEXANDRE ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said that his delegation had asked that the subject of privileges and immunities be added to today's agenda, as a result of a recent incident that had involved Ambassador Sergey Lavrov.
At 3:20 p.m. on Friday, 31 October, the Ambassador had been in his car on his way to an important meeting of the Security Council when his progress was blocked by a New York police patrol car, he said. The patrol car had been parked and its driver was casually talking to someone on the street. The driver of the Ambassador's car had then honked, in response to which one of the police officers approached the Ambassador's car and said, "We are New York police, nobody honks at the New York police."
The Ambassador's car had then proceeded on its way, he said. However, at a stop light on Lexington Avenue, it had been blocked by the same patrol car, and its keys had been forcibly removed by an officer. The officer had then addressed the Ambassador and his driver offensively, and had told them that only the Ambassador posessed diplomatic immunity. The matter had taken half an hour to clear up and the Ambassador had been very late for his meeting.
The Russian Federation regarded those actions as a flagrant violation of international law, he said. They were a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention, which stated that host countries must treat diplomatic missions with absolute respect.
New York City police officers were supposed to have been briefed on how to appropriately interact with diplomatic missions, he said. Over the last year, however, the police had either forgotten the rules or were deliberately
Host Country Committee - 3 - Press Release HQ/579/Rev.1 188th Meeting (AM) 5 November 1997
disregarding them. Additional measures must be taken by the host country authorities.
The Russian Federation had demanded that the United States issue an apology and punish those responsible for the incident, he said. It was important to ensure that such situations did not recur. To that end, the Russion Federation had also appraised the Secretary-General's Office of the incident.
The responsibility of the host country to provide normal working conditions for diplomatic missions, as defined in the Vienna Convention, had been undermined, he said. The atmosphere was being worsened and bordered on outright violence. The Russian Federation was willing to cooperate in order to restore a normal atmosphere of mutual respect.
ROBERT MOLLER (United States) said he had listened carefully to the delegate of the Russian Federation and shared many of his concerns following the unfortunate incident involving the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation and his vehicle on 31 October. The Russian Mission had sent a note verbale protesting the incident, and the United States Mission had responded with an interim reply informing the Russian Federation that their concerns had been taken seriously.
The United States Mission, he said, would meet with New York City officials and a meeting of senior police commanders had been convened for tomorrow, 6 November, by the New York City Chief of Police to discuss the matter and related issues. At the meeting, the United States Mission would remind the Police Department that diplomatic inviolability must be respected as a matter of United States and international law.
He said that the United States Mission would once again offer to provide briefings to police officers on the general principles of diplomatic immunity and diplomatic inviolability in an effort to ensure that such actions as described by the Russian delegate did not occur in future and to avoid any further misunderstanding.
He hoped to be able to report back to the Russian Mission and to the Committee on the results of tomorrow's meeting and any others that may follow.
ELDAR KOULIEV (Azerbaijan) requested the United States delegate to convey to the meeting of police commanders his delegation's belief that the parking situation had deteriorated rather than improved. New notices posted on diplomatic parking spaces on 45th and 46th Streets indicated that they were available for anybody after 6 p.m.
Host Country Committee - 4 - Press Release HQ/579/Rev.1 188th Meeting (AM) 5 November 1997
Noting that Azerbaijan was on the other side of the globe and in a different time zone from New York, he said that the recent action by the city's Police Department had made it more difficult for the staff of his Mission, who had to work after 6 p.m., to carry out their duties.
Mr. Holmes (Canada), Acting Chairman, said that a working group on parking issues had been established.
Consideration of Draft Report
EMILIA CASTRO DE BARISH (Costa Rica), Committee Rapporteur, introducing the report, said it followed the usual format used for the Committee's annual reports and consisted of four sections.
The first section contained a brief introduction, she said. The second section described the membership, terms of reference and organizational aspects of the work of the Committee. The third section, divided into six sub-sections, covered the topics dealt with by the Committee during reporting period. They were on the question of the security of missions and the safety of their personnel; question of privileges and immunities; transportation: Use of motor vehicles, parking and related matters; issues arising in connection with the implementation of the Headquarters Agreement; host country travel regulations; entry visas issued by the host country; insurance and Health; and other matters.
An annex to the report (Annex I) listed the documents issued in connection with the work of the Committee during the reporting period (22 November 1996 - November 1997), she said. The fourth section of the report, which contained the Committee's recommendations and conclusions, was not included in the draft because consultations were still under way.
The Committee then approved the first three sections of the draft report. Consideration of the fourth section was deferred until the next meeting.
Statements on Other Matters.
Mr. MOLLER (United States) said that his delegation wished to take the opportunity to express appreciation to Ambassador Agathocleous for his service as Chairman of the Committee. The Ambassador had served with distinction during some of the most complicated and serious problems ever to face the New York diplomatic community.
Under Ambassador Agathocleous's leadership, the Committee had been forced to address such diverse issues as diplomatic indebtedness and parking, he said. Under his leadership, both of these issues, as well as others, had been effectively addressed.
Host Country Committee - 5 - Press Release HQ/579/Rev.1 188th Meeting (AM) 5 November 1997
CONSTANTINE MOUSHOUTAS (Cyprus) thanked members of the Committee for the kind words.
MOHAMMAD RAMEEZ YAHYA (Malaysia) asked why the names of Member and observer delegations had not been mentioned in the report.
Ms. CASTRO DE BARISH (Costa Rica), Rapporteur, said that the names of Committee members had not been published as previously because the Committee was trying to reduce the size of the report as much as possible.
HUBERT LEGAL (France) said that, while making it more readable, inclusion of the names of the Committee members would add only three or four lines to the report.
Mr. HOLMES (Canada), Acting Chairman, said that if there was an informal proposal to add names to the report, it would be appropriate to make it.
Mr. LEGAL (France) said that an addition to footnote 1 on page 25 of the report would easily solve the problem.
The Committee accepted his proposal.
* *** *