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Maintain diplomatic etiquette in host country

Mehjabin Bhanu
28 Dec 2022 00:03:22 | Update: 28 Dec 2022 00:03:22
Maintain diplomatic etiquette in host country

The incident of naked poking into our politics by the ambassadors of several countries working in Bangladesh has not only surprised but angered all the conscious citizens. Because there are instructions to refrain from such activities in the international law related to diplomacy.

The United States and Russia have made counter statements about Bangladesh. Recently, Peter de Haas’s visit to Shaheen Bagh and his concern over the disappearance created a sensation in the diplomatic arena. The US Ambassador then met with the Secretary of State to express his security concerns. The matter escalated to Washington. A US official in Washington called the Bangladeshi ambassador and spoke about the security of the US ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter D. Haas. After that, the issue is being resolved through the diplomatic side of the two countries. Bangladesh has said that there was no deficiency in the security system. But in such a situation, the Russian Embassy in Dhaka issued a statement last Tuesday. In this statement, they strongly criticized the excesses of the US ambassador in Bangladesh. In the statement, they said, Russia is determined not to interfere in the internal affairs of any third country, including Bangladesh, on the grounds of protecting democracy or on any other pretext. The statement was made by the Russian embassy apparently in the wake of the recent actions of US Ambassador Peter De Haas. And in response to this, the US Embassy in Dhaka released a tweet last Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether Russia applies this policy to Ukraine, it said.

It should be noted that in the statement given by the Russian Embassy, as the United States has been criticized for keeping its nose in the internal affairs of Bangladesh, in the same way, the Russian Embassy has been blamed for the attack on Ukraine by the United States. This has created a sensation in the diplomatic arena.

The remark by Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova added a new layer to the ongoing diplomatic arguments between the two global superpowers.

The Russian embassy in Dhaka on Sunday sent the statement by Maria Zakharova in Moscow on 22 December. In the statement, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said the US ambassador to Dhaka was “persistently trying to influence” the domestic processes in Bangladesh “under the pretext of caring about” the rights of Bangladeshi citizens.

The statement mentioned the 14 December incident when the US ambassador was visiting the family of an enforced disappearance victim in Dhaka’s Shaheenbagh and had to shorten the meeting and leave the place after being interrupted by a group of people.

Foreign envoys’ interference in the developing countries specially in Bangladesh has a become a routine work. But Bangladesh, anyhow, doesn’t want any outside interference in its domestic affairs. Now, we will see how logical Bangladesh’s demand from foreign diplomats is.

According to international customary law, no state is obliged to send or receive permanent ambassadors, it is a matter of its own will or unwillingness. Although the United Nations is not a state, it can also send permanent envoys as an international personality. According to international law, a country’s ambassador is the representative of the country’s head of state in the international context.

According to international law, no state is obliged to maintain diplomatic relations with a state that abuses diplomatic privileges. As each ambassador is the representative of the head of state of his home country, he enjoys special honors in the host country and may seek the right to be declared ‘Excellency’ by officials of the host country.

Diplomatic provisions in international law have been developed over many years of customary practice. A reflection of diplomatic laws and court rulings enacted at different times in different countries, namely the Diplomatic Privileges Act of 1708 in the United Kingdom. The ‘Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations’ was formulated at a conference in Vienna in 1961 in the light of the thinking of the Harvard Research Institute and the International Law Commission to codify these conventional provisions in writing in the changing world situation

All the countries that have ‘ratified’ the Convention including Bangladesh have enacted the necessary laws to make the provisions of the Convention enforceable in their respective countries. Article III of the Convention recognizes 5 functions of embassies. These are- (a) Representing one’s country in the host country, (b) Acting within the boundaries of international law to protect the interests of the country and its citizens in the host country, (c) Negotiating with the government of the host country, (d) Within the ambit of law. From reviewing the status and development of the host country and reporting it to the home country, (e) trying to develop friendly relations with the host country. Which will include economic, cultural and scientific issues.

It is very strongly established in conventional international law that no ambassador meddles in the internal political affairs of the host country. They have the right to observe the events of the host country to transmit them to their own government. But of course, they have no right or power to be directly or indirectly involved in the politics of the host country or to speak or take a stand for or against any particular political party, or to inspire any of them. Any ambassador or embassy doing this would be a clear breach of diplomatic dignity. It is unquestionable that a diplomat is doing this on his own initiative and not at the behest of his country’s government, and no state will tolerate such abuse of privileges and dignity by a foreign envoy and may even declare the envoy undesirable in extreme cases (persona non grata). But before that the consignor shall inform the Government. Because of this, in 1988, Lord Sackville was expelled from that country by the US government for interfering in US elections. In October 1927, the French government requested the Soviet government to withdraw their ambassador Rakovsky. Because he stayed in France and signed a document called ‘Political Manifesto’. Actions taken by host countries to expel foreign diplomats are an integral part of international law. The question of violation of diplomatic status and rights by foreign envoys in a host country was discussed in detail by the International Court of Justice in the United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran case in 1979. The International Court of Justice, while giving its judgment in that case, mentioned that if a foreign ambassador or embassy violates their status and misrepresents it, the host state has the full right to take action against the relevant ambassador or embassy, which is recognized by international law. In 1985, a British court sentenced a Nigerian diplomat named Yusufu to prison despite criminal impunity for diplomats. Yusufu was accused of kidnapping a former Nigerian minister who was in political asylum in the UK.

Bangladesh is a peace lover civilized country. Bangladesh hasn’t any kind of intention of expulsion of foreign diplomats. Its foreign policy is clear that ‘Friendship to all, malice to none’. Bangladesh doesn’t want any uncomfortable situation with any other countries. Bangladesh is always connected with all countries to strengthen relations. Communication is happening every day at every level. There has been no change in Bangladesh’s policy of ‘friendship with all, enmity with none’.

The Russian Embassy in its statement praised Bangladesh’s independence in its foreign policy. Bangladesh has from time to time expressed its stance on neutral foreign policy.

We hope that Dhaka would not sit idle and be a new frontier of Washington-Moscow diplomatic row over Bangladesh’s internal affairs such as the upcoming national election and human rights issues.

Professor Oppenheim, the world-renowned author of international law, has clearly stated that there is no room for debate on the rule of non-interference in the host country’s politics or conflicts. Also, since all the member states of the United Nations are obliged to obey every provision of the United Nations Charter, the ambassadors of those states are also obliged to obey it. One of the directives of the United Nations Charter is that - “The present Charter does not confer on the United Nations the right to interfere in the mere internal affairs of any State nor to require any Member to refer to the United Nations for the settlement of such matters” {Article 1(7)}. In this situation, some ambassadors working in Bangladesh are directly poking their noses into the politics of our country and meeting in secret meetings with the leaders and members of various political parties, giving speeches at political meetings, expressing their opinions and violating the international law related to diplomacy, acting against Article 1(4) of the UN Charter. Misusing their
diplomatic status.

The ambassadors of the countries who have played such a role in the politics of our country, surely, they will not tolerate the snubbing of our ambassadors in the politics of their country. The ambassadors say that they are doing this at the invitation of our politicians. But that cannot be an argument. They are bound to follow international law and the UN Charter; which Bangladesh FM has recently publicly stated.

The writer is an independent researcher. She can be contacted at [email protected]