Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Peter David, has clarified that not all non-nationals with diplomatic passports of Grenada have diplomatic immunity.
During last Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, Hon David, took time to explain the difference between accredited and non-accredited diplomats, as well as the birth of Honourary Counsels for Grenada, noting that misconceptions on this issue are being discussed publicly.
David, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Town of Saint George, said diplomatic appointments are linked to Grenada’s pursuit of development. He noted that these appointments are made at the Ministry through the Cabinet.
“We have accredited diplomats and non-accredited diplomats,” stated Hon David. He explained that accredited diplomats are persons who are accredited to a country, referencing Ambassador Claris Charles in Cuba who is accredited to Cuba. Accordingly, he said Cuban diplomats in Grenada receive immunity and privileges and Grenada’s Ambassador in Cuba receives “certain privileges.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister said this is same for Grenada’s ambassadors in London or the USA, “they get immunities and we reciprocate if that country has an ambassador in Grenada. For instance, the British High Commission in the Caribbean.”
Diplomatic Immunity is a status granted to diplomatic personnel that exempts them from the laws of a foreign jurisdiction.
The Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations (1961), which most countries have ratified, including Grenada, offers diplomats acting as officials of state almost total protection from subjection to criminal, administrative, and civil laws belonging to the country in which the diplomatic mission is located. Diplomats assigned to missions located in foreign countries remain subject to the laws of their home countries. The diplomat’s country of origin has the right to decide if a host country may prosecute a diplomat under its laws.
Minister David explained that non-accredited diplomats (example: trade commissioners and ambassadors at large) pursue Grenada’s foreign policy but are not accredited to a country and so do not get immunity.
“Immunity is only granted to persons who are accredited because countries have to agree. Someone cannot just land with a diplomatic passport and say I have a diplomatic passport and I have immunity,” Minister David to the Lower House.
He noted that Government Ministers and Permanent Secretaries have diplomatic passports but no immunity. “It is just to facilitate ease of travel, it is not to bestow any diplomatic immunity,” he added.
He pointed out that developed countries with unlimited resources have embassies in many countries with accredited diplomats, but Small Island Developing States like Grenada have limited resources and so pursue diplomacy via Honorary Counsels, “persons we appoint to several places throughout the world and it is endorsed by the United Nations.”
Minister David stressed that Honorary Counsels are not accredited but pursue Grenada’s diplomacy based on their own resources.
Grenada has Honorary Counsels in Dubai, Europe, Africa, Lebanon, China, Jamaica, Belize, France, Dominican Republic and India.
He said this arrangement benefits Grenada in that Grenadians are assisted when they encounter difficulties in those countries; referencing that recently a Grenadian on a ship that was stranded in the Philippines got assistance from the Honorary Counsel there. He said a similar situation occurred in the Dominican Republic with stranded local fishermen. Added to that he noted that stranded Grenadian students in China and Jamaica were recently assisted by the Honorary Counsel there.
“The development of this non-paying diplomacy through the UN, has been a tremendous benefit to this country,” Minister David stated.
He also noted that a thorough due diligence is done before the appointments are made to ensure that the individuals are of “good character and impeccable record.”
The Minister stated that if any problem arises after appointments are made, it can be immediately revoked. “There is no contractual agreement on our part, if they do have a passport it is immediately revoked and they are no longer accredited or working on behalf of Grenada,” he said.
Noting that he also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under the previous administration, Hon David assured that this practice of diplomacy is normal and exists throughout the region and the world.
The Minister informed that Grenada has embassies in Cuba, China, UN, Washington and Brussels, and it is through diplomacy that Grenada obtains scholarships and other technical assistance for its nationals.
“If our diplomacy was to rely on the resources of central government, I assure you that our diplomacy would not have led to all these benefits,” he concluded.