Mbabane: The American Embassy to Eswatini has confirmed the shooting of a diplomatic vehicle by Eswatini law enforcement agents.
“We can confirm that shots were fired at an embassy vehicle on July 1 and that we informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the incident via diplomatic note – a standard form of communication between all diplomatic missions and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” reads a statement.
The embassy said it was working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address the incident.
The shooting happened at a time of unrest in the country where law enforcement agents were deployed all over the country to maintain peace and order, and calm the situation of the ongoing violent protests throughout the country.
On July 3, the American embassy wrote to the ministry of Foreign affairs and International Corporation informing them about the incident. In the letter, the embassy stated that the incident took place on July 1, 2021, where a soldier in the Eswatini Defence Forces shot three live rounds at a US Diplomatic vehicle, with one round striking the vehicle.
The embassy stated that soldiers further stopped the vehicle at a second checkpoint, pointed weapons at the vehicle, and attempted to search the vehicle, thereby violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. “We request your assistance coordinating a speedy resolution to ensure this does not occur to any of our diplomats or diplomatic vehicles.” reads the letter.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is a treaty that governs the conduct of foreign relations and ensures that diplomats can conduct their duties without the threat of influence by the host government.
The rules are intended to facilitate the development of friendly relations among nations, irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems. The purpose of such privileges and immunities as per the convention is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions.
The Convention requires diplomats to obey local laws; however, the only sanction permissible under the Convention, in the absence of a waiver of immunity, is expulsion. This prevents the potential abuse by local authorities of the power of a state’s law enforcement system. Reciprocity also forms an effective sanction for the observance of the rules of the Convention.
Part of the articles of the convention stated that the premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolable 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. It also states that the host country must never search the premises, nor seize its documents or property. Such provision according to the Vienna convention is extended to the private residence of the diplomats.
It also states that Diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. They are immune from civil or criminal prosecution by the host government. It further states that the family members of diplomats that are living in the host country enjoy most of the same protections as the diplomats themselves.