Is Diplomatic Immunity a Violation of Individual Rights?
Diplomatic immunity is a government-granted licence to initiate the use of force and fraud with impunity
“The purpose of law and of government is the protection of individual rights.”
“The Constitution is . . . not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens’ protection against the government.”
— Ayn Rand, “The Nature of Government” in The Virtue of Selfishness
Diplomatic immunity originated on an ad hoc basis, as the request from one king or tribal chieftain to another for unhindered passage for a courier or ambassador.
Today, codified by international treaties, it’s a grant of exemption from the laws of a country. It’s reciprocal: the grant of immunity, by one state to another, for accredited diplomatic representatives, supposedly to allow free and unhindered communication between the two governments. And, of course, to protect the representatives of State One from what it considers to be the horrendous laws and punishments of State Two.
Inevitably, diplomatic immunity is abused. For example, cars with diplomatic plates can park anywhere without penalty. The police may issue a parking ticket, but unlike you and I the diplomatic driver is under no compulsion to pay it—and if he doesn’t he can’t be prosecuted.
Between 1997 and 2002, diplomats in New York racked up over 150,000 parking tickets—over $17 million worth of fines all unpaid to this day.
But parking in a no-parking zone is penny ante stuff.
Thieves, murderers, rapists, scam artists, and other criminals can be neither prosecuted nor punished if they hold diplomatic immunity (see some examples of “diplomatic” murder and kidnapping here).
The only possible “punishment” for such errant diplomats is to be sent home—which is no punishment at all if they were acting on the instructions of their superiors.
In the terminology of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, diplomatic immunity is a government-granted licence to initiate the use of force and fraud with impunity.
That would mean any diplomat accredited to a government established on Objectivist principles could violate the rights of others in any way he or she chose—while the police, the government’s protectors of individual rights, stood by helplessly.
Given that an Objectivist government is established with the sole function and purpose of protecting everyone’s individual’s rights, it has no power to grant an exemption to its own officers—be they policemen, bureaucrats, or members of Congress—let alone to any representative of a foreign power or, for that matter, anyone else.
Clearly, this fact has significant implications for the foreign policy operations of an Objectivist government—a topic for another time.
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