Diplomatic Immunity


    In News 

    The wife of Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea is exercising her diplomatic immunity to avoid charges for allegedly slapping a store assistant in April 2021.

    About  Diplomatic Immunity

    • It is a privilege of exemption from certain laws and taxes granted to diplomats by the country in which they are posted. 
    • Diplomatic immunity is granted on the basis of two conventions, popularly called the Vienna Conventions that includes: 
      • the Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, and 
      • the Convention on Consular Relations, 1963. 
    • They have been ratified by 187 countries, including South Korea. 
    • The custom was formed so that diplomats can function without fear, threat or intimidation from the host country.

     Extent of Immunity

    • According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, the immunity enjoyed by a diplomat posted in the embassy is “inviolable”. 
    • The diplomat cannot be arrested or detained and his house will have the same inviolability and protection as the embassy.


    • Immunity is not  the same for all diplomats and their families.
    • The Vienna Convention classifies diplomats according to their posting in the embassy, consular or international organisations such as the UN.
      • A nation has only one embassy per foreign country, usually in the capital, but may have multiple consulate offices, generally in locations where many of its citizens live or visit.
        • Diplomats posted in an embassy get immunity, along with his or her family members.
        • While diplomats posted in consulates also get immunity, they can be prosecuted in case of serious crimes, that is, when a warrant is issued. 
          • Besides, their families don’t share that immunity.


    • It is possible for the diplomat’s home country to waive immunity but this can happen only when the individual has committed a ‘serious crime’, unconnected with their diplomatic role or has witnessed such a crime. 
    • Alternatively, the home country may prosecute the individual.


    • While diplomatic immunity is intended to “insulate” diplomats from harm, it does not insulate their countries from a bad reputation and a blow to bilateral ties. 
    • The privilege of diplomatic immunity is not for an individual’s benefit. If a diplomat acts outside his business of conducting international relations, a question arises over whether his immunity still applies

     Instances of Immunity Abuse  In The Past

    • In 1967, the Burmese ambassador to Sri Lanka shot his wife whom he suspected of having an affair. 
    • In 1983, a Saudi Arabian diplomat’s son raped a 16-year-old in the US. 
    • In April 2012, in Manila, Panamanian diplomat Erick Bairnals Shcks was accused of raping a 19-year-old Filipino woman, but was released from detention because he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.