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Diplomatic relations between independent countries is a key aspect of governance. There has always been a growing demand for countries to establish a framework which defines the manner in which these states relate and co-work in their day to day activities. This has been done in several ways deemed acceptable among nations through agreements and signing of treaties. Notably, it has not begun in the 21st century, but over years, with a lot of success having been realized today. Although those who initiated these ideas may not be around, credit has always been given to them for establishing the basis for different sovereign states to interact and work together towards achieving a common goal.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 was a milestone in strengthening inter-state relationships. What is it? It is a treaty which gives a framework that governs diplomatic relations among different independent states in the world. The treaty gives freedom for diplomatic missions allowing diplomats to carry out their duties without fear, harassment or interference from the host country (Brody and Ratner, 2000). This therefore forms the foundation for diplomatic defense and imperviousness. However, the articles of The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 are the main cornerstone of today's international affairs after being ratified by over 180 countries in the world. The convention marks its 50th anniversary April next year. This analysis gives a detailed coverage of The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, with regard to membership, reasons for its formation, its constitution and provisions among others aspects of international relationships.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is regarded as one of the most successful instruments established by the United Nations in streamlining the participation of sovereign states in common agenda and in the creation of legal order on international diplomacy that has since then seen reputable inter-state relationships in the world. This success is mainly attributed to the stability of basic rules which governed international law and tough regulations against non-compliance. As alluded above, the main purpose why The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 was established was based on association among nations (Hardy, 1968). Communication and interaction between different states was hindered and limited by a number of factors, creating immense need of having proper guidelines which would define inter-state relations. Until the treaty was ratified, negotiation terms, agreements and quarrels were major sources of unstable relationships. This resulted into non peaceful international relations that could not allow good links among independent states. There was less respect to envoys especially with the rise of revolts and empires like the Roman Empire. Some international relationships led to wars and violence initiated by conspiracy among diplomats and other sovereign leaders. These disputes triggered leaders to establish coherent relationships for the social-economic development. It was to be propagated by allowing diplomatic agents freedom and privileges of functioning in a foreign country. This was realized after the Havana Convention of 1928 even though it never reflected the current international practices.
Moreover, the priority of the Vienna Convention came into play in 1950's to oversee the codification of the international law. The International Law Commission was asked to take up the idea with urgency under Mr. Sandström's Chairmanship whose report formed the basis of the draft articles which were to be adopted in the year 1957 (Hardy, 1968). After the adoption of these articles, they were to be debated in the General Assembly before they were sent to all United Nations Member States. There were comments from up to twenty one countries which were put into account in 1958 before revised articles were formulated to form part of the convention that was endorsed by the General Assembly. A total of eighty one states participated in the Conference in Vienna starting March 2, 1961 before culminating in its adoption and signing on April 18, 1961. The success of the conference was attributed to a number of factors. The first was the stability of rules which regulated international relations. For over two hundred years of history, the laws fostered peaceful relationships. Although there were changes in its structure with regard to establishment of embassies and communication, the main structure of law covering negotiations, protection of state interests and maintenance of information links remained unchanged. The second factor that led to the success of the convention was the mutual consent of every nation that was involved. As a result both countries were to benefit either as receiving or sending State.
The Vienna Convention and Customary Law
According to Berridge (2002), customary international law was the foundation of diplomatic law before The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 was ratified (p.112). The main purpose of the convention was to clarify and tighten the customary law in the overall formation of an international law. The 1961 ratification was to curb the misuse of diplomatic privileges by some diplomatic agents. This was witnessed through harassment and other illegitimate purposes. Future changes like neo-colonialism also created the need of having a defined framework that would not be dismissed like traditional institutions of diplomacy. The new international law was to create equality in terms of relationships which would not allow exploitation by other nations (Berridge, 2002). The codification of the law justified the privileges of diplomatic missions only on the basis of efficient functioning and not for one state benefits. This led to the clarification of the functions of diplomatic missions which were strengthened in the convention.
The adoption of the Vienna Convention in early 1960's was to promote inter-state relationships in the world. This was however achieved through various ways which were not only understanding of the treaty but also implementation of the international law which was to significantly transform the customary law which had been in operation for over 200 years (Berridge, 2002). The implementation of these laws was to be guided by the consular relations. As a key organ, the consular functions were to be facilitated by the convention through free communication. Consular officials were given the freedom to pass information to their nationals in the process of diplomatic services. In addition, foreign national were to freely meet with consular officials. This was to promote smooth communication which is a key tool in diplomatic relationships.
There are achievements associated which the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 which continue to be felt today. However, it was to serve to major purposes in maintaining good diplomatic relationships among nations. It was to fully address the needs of foreign nationals who were vulnerable to harassment and denial of human rights. How was this to be realized? Many believed that communication was paramount in protecting and serving the needs of foreign nations. Therefore, the freedom for them to meet with consular officials especially in detention was considered as the foundation of their protection. By allowing detainees to communicate to consular officials, many were given a fair hearing in courts and reduced the risk of harassment (Brody and Ratner, 2000).
Do signatory states benefit from the Vienna Convention? It allowed them to keep an eye on the manner in which their citizens were treated in foreign countries. This allows independent states to protect their nationals from exploitation but host nations by closely monitoring the kind of treatment they are accorded. Despite these provisions, it is worth noting that countries like the United States have failed to ensure the implementation of these regulations. It has failed to inform foreign nationals about their legal right to consular access especially when they are in detention. This makes it hard for consular officials to communicate to those in detention in order to have them access to necessary legal assistance. As a result, many foreign nationals have used this provision to challenge court proceedings when they are denied a chance to communicate to consular officials. However, many courts dismiss such arguments on the basis of untimely intervention. In fact, most of these cases end up receiving poor attention since the defendants are always foreign nationals.
The Congress of Vienna
What was it? The conference was held in Vienna and chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich. It was an international convention which was convened in order to restructure Europe after the collapse of Napoleon I from September 1814 to June 1815. Several decisions were made during the conference most of which were to affect the functioning of some territories (Murty, 1989). It is believed that the main purpose of the Congress of Vienna was to create equality and balance of power which to create and preserve peaceful coexistence among nations. The recommendations of the conference were to deal with many issues including Revolutionary Wars and the downfall of the Roman Empire. As a result, there was to be redrawing of maps and adopting new boundaries that would define territorial space. The conference was attended by several states including but not limited to Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Britain and France.
Many perceived the Congress to be a model for the UN and the League of Nations as a way of maintaining peace between all the involved parties. The fall of Napoleon was the end of a continuous war in more than twenty years. It is important to note that the conference was never considered as a proper Congress. This was due to the fact that there were no plenary sessions before the formal seating famously known as the Vienna Congress. Another reason why the reputation of the Congress was questionable was that there were no formal meetings among members with some discussions only involving the Great powers some of which were pushing individual interests. It is however regarded as first occasion of its kind where continental leaders came together to agree and adopt treaties which were to shape future continental and inter-state relationships. This was a milestone since communication had previously been seen as a hurdle towards achieving peace (Murty, 1989). The success of the convention was quite significant; forming the basis of the United Nations' operational foundation and a framework for other treaties like the Vienna convention on Diplomatic relations 1961.
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Diplomatic Immunity, Provisions and protocols in the convention
The convention gives a detailed legal framework which defines the foundation, operation and termination of suave relationships among its signatories based on their mutual consent. According to Berridge (2002), the convention was to be a source of detailed guidelines (p. 115). Among other functions described earlier, the Vienna convention on Diplomatic relations 1961 explains the obligations of various diplomatic missions and regulates diplomatic appointments. It categorically gives rules with regard to diplomatic immunities and privileges in order to prevent conflicts which may arise from relationships among independent nations in the world. This promotes inter-state links through free and fair access to information by foreign nationals and protection of their rights. It further gives provisions which specify state withdrawal from a diplomatic mission. This only occurs when there is misuse of diplomatic immunity or poor diplomatic relations. As a result, both the sending and receiving states are protected. Vienna Convention provisions are provided by law, which form a significant basis for diplomatic relationships and its functionality.
For instance, article 22 affirms the purity of mission property and aims at protecting these premises through barring of entry by security agents, say law enforcement officers. In addition to this, the article requires the receiving state to fully support the protection of these premises under its local law (Berridge, 2002). This protection targets guard against illegal intrusion, defilement of human dignity, disruption of peace and damage among other forms of harassment from either government agents or citizens of the receiving nation. It is worth noting that this article does not allow the entry to the premise by security agents even on emergency, unless authorized by the in charge of the mission. Besides protection of premises, article 24 safeguards mission documents and information archives. This article applies even in the event the documents are outside the mission premises. Furthermore, the receiving country is not allowed to confiscate or carry out any form of inspection under whichever circumstances. The information found in these documents and archives cannot further be used for or against and individual in court and other legal proceedings.
Communication freedom is also covered by the Vienna Convention under section 27. According to this section of the international diplomatic law, the sending state has the freedom to communicate to the mission at any time when deemed necessary. In addition, it is not a must for the receiving State to be informed of such communication. Security of the information being transferred is also covered under this article with no permission being given to the receiving country to open the carrier containing the message even on suspicion of the kind of information (Berridge, 2002). Based on the nature and functions of diplomatic missions, information security is considered as one of the indispensable immunities.
On the other hand, diplomats are also guaranteed from criminal jurisdiction under article 31 of the Convention. However, these immunities may be relinquished by the sending state as directed by the law in article 34 of the convention. This article exempts diplomats from payment of local tax to the receiving state among countless exemptions that fall under local and non official duties of diplomats while discharging their duties under the international diplomatic law. A part from taxes diplomats are also excluded from custom duties imposed on imported items throughout their mission period in the receiving State (Hardy, 1968, p. 137). This provision is covered in article 36 of the convention. Families of diplomats are also covered by diplomatic for various immunities. This law defines how family and junior staffs have to be treated while in the receiving state. It is important to note that immunities of these people vary from those enjoyed by diplomats. This variation limits the number of people bearing the name of diplomatic officials as family members.
The success of the Vienna Convention rests is solely in promoting international diplomatic relations among states in the world. With only 22 ratifications at the time of its adoption, it currently enjoys a following of almost every State in the world. This is so although there is need to establish legislation in a number of states in the world. It has created a homogeneous and coherent way of dealing with issues of international relationships. Nevertheless, the Convention has also received resistance and attack especially in terms of conflicts. This was witnessed in 1980 after the shooting of an officer from Libyan space in the United Kingdom (Brody and Ratner, 2000). It led to a brake up of the relationships between the two nations leading to the termination of Libyan mission to UK. There have been questions by scholars around the globe over the conflict which has continued to arise between diplomatic immunity and the access to justice by human beings. This has had reference to instances of deprivation of human rights like torture. Despite this minimum resistance and international attack, diplomatic immunities have remained intact with immunity rules giving legal direction.
There is no doubt that the Vienna Convention is one of the most supported treaties in the world; having fostered the realization of peace among rival and even warring nations in the world. However, public interest has shifted to the security and vulnerability of diplomats who serve in other countries. History has witnessed the attack of various ambassadorial premises and even officials, raising alarm over the security of diplomats (Barker, 2006). In 1998, there was bombing of the US embassy in Kenya and Tanzania which resulted into loss of innocent lives and destruction of property. Besides terrorist attack and threats, some have fallen victims of kidnapping. A case in mind is when US diplomatic officers were held hostage in Tehran for over a year.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relation of 1961 has also received practical application in national courts. This is because most of its raised legal provision concerning civil jurisdiction and the kind of evidence to be submitted as evidence during court hearing. In most cases, such cases present ambiguous cases which involving conflicts over the protection of human rights versus maintaining the dignity of diplomatic premises. The Convention has also been used as a tool for formulating future treaties like the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and New York's Convention of 1969 which was based on Special Missions. Besides its application in formulation of other treaties, the Convention has also been used by some international organizations to define treatment of premises and senior staff. It is also used during military operations. The United Nation has also referred to the convention several occasions like in the 2004 Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities. It is worth noting that most Heads of States and foreign affairs ministers do apply these rules in their capacities in discharging international diplomatic services.
In general, the Vienna convention on Diplomatic relations 1961 is one of the most renowned treaties in the world with its impact being felt to date. Although it faces challenges like many other conventions in the world, it has been applauded for promoting coherent international relationships among nations. Many conflicts have been solved using the rules of this convention by providing guidelines on diplomatic relationship. The provisions of the Convention have had great impact towards issues of Diplomatic immunities thus protecting diplomatic officials and their families in host States (Barker, 2006). It covers the rights of both diplomats and the staff to ensure that they are not exploited in any way by national laws. Diplomatic premises and information archives are also covered under the Convention to guard against unauthorized access to diplomatic information, vandalizing of property and general harassment. The implementation of these provisions has however been facilitated by the corporation of signatory States throughout history with its support having gain immense popularity.
How is the Vienna convention on Diplomatic relations 1961 applicable today? There is no country that can survive on its own regardless of its development standards. As a result, there has to be framework which defines the manner in which independent states ought to relate in achieving a common goal. Such a relationship has to be free from exploitation of any of the parties involved and must uphold respect of human rights and dignity (Barker, 2006). Minus relevant tools it is becomes difficult to create these links, an achievement which the Vienna convention on Diplomatic relations 1961 enjoys. Together with other tools and organs of governances, the Convention has significantly contributed to the realization of global peace through streamlined international diplomatic relations.
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