We Forgot We Signed That

On 29 November 2011, “students” who just happened to be members of the thuggish paramilitary Basij militia in Iran, stormed the British Embassy while the Iranian riot police, who guard the embassy, stood by as if they had been suddenly struck deaf, dumb, and blind. That the person of a diplomat must be inviolate, as well as the premises of a diplomatic mission, has long been enshrined in international law and custom. Even the Third Reich observed this principle. All of these treaties and conventions were codified in a new treaty: the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, of which Iran is a signatory.
According to a summary on Wikipedia, Article 22 of the convention states:

The premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolate and must not be entered by the host country except by permission of the head of the mission. Furthermore, the host country must protect the mission from intrusion or damage [emphasis mine]. The host country must never search the premises, nor seize its documents or property. Article 30 extends this provision to the private residence of the diplomats.

If you are ever in Washington, DC you will notice white police cars with the badge of the US Secret Service painted on them. (This is my favorite oxymoron in DC: the uniformed Secret Service.) Besides guarding the White House, this group also guards diplomatic missions in Washington, of which they are many. I live a block from the Chinese Embassy and often large groups of protesters will gather in front of the Embassy to protest. If it is a small crowd, one will see three or four Secret Service patrol cars parked on the nearby street. If the crowd grows very large, stronger measures are taken. During one protest, the crowd seemed to be at least two hundred or more very unhappy people. I observed forty uniformed Secret Service officers with riot helmets, shields, and long wooden batons standing in front of the Chinese Embassy along with half a dozen Secret Service officers mounted on horseback.

We are obligated to do this as a civilized country which is also a signatory to the Vienna Convention. Why doesn’t the Iranian government understand and observe this convention? I guess it just doesn’t suit them but it removes them from civilized discourse with other nations — as it should.

(Source: New York Times)

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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