Recently in Bangladesh, many discussions are going on in the political and diplomatic circles about the various comments and activities of the diplomats of different countries. Last November, Japanese Ambassador to Dhaka Ito Naoki came under criticism for commenting on voting in the 2018 elections in Bangladesh. In his speech, he brought up the issue of ballot box stuffing the night before the last election.
Any agreement concluded in Vienna, the capital of Austria, can be known as the Vienna Convention, the BBC said. However, the agreement on the conduct of diplomats signed in 1961 at the initiative of the United Nations with the participation of various countries is known as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The Convention has a total of 53 articles. The purpose of this agreement was to develop friendly relations between different countries by following certain rules and regulations. At that time the independent countries signed the treaty. Later, gradually, the countries that became independent also included themselves in this agreement. Bangladesh signed this agreement in 1978 after independence.
Former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh Touhid Hossain said that diplomats of one country have been staying in another country for a long time as part of diplomacy. But there was no internationally uniform agreement or policy on what kind of benefits they would receive or how they would be treated. From this requirement, an agreement was made with the participating countries after a conference in Vienna on the initiative of the United Nations in April 1961. According to the rules mentioned in the Vienna Convention, diplomatic missions or representatives of other countries are stationed in any country. Through this agreement, the client country ensures various types of facilities, security, accommodation, law enforcement for diplomats in other countries. Hossain said, according to the Vienna Convention, diplomats and client countries behave. Because of which he thinks this agreement is particularly important.
The agreement states that diplomatic relations shall be based on mutual consent between the countries. One of the most important clauses or articles of the Vienna Convention states that any country can declare a diplomat of another country stationed in that country as ‘persona non grata’ or inadmissible without giving any reason. The diplomat can be declared inadmissible before he reaches the country concerned. Any person serving in a country’s diplomatic mission, including the head of that mission, can be declared inadmissible. In this case, the sending country will either dismiss or withdraw the appointed diplomat. If the country fails to withdraw its diplomat in a timely manner, the receiving country may deprive the diplomat of its special status and security.
The former foreign secretary said that such incidents often occur between India and Pakistan. Hossain said that both the countries refer to their diplomats as ‘unacceptable’ and give notices to take them back to the country within seven days. In 2019, Pakistan also dismissed the Indian ambassador over the Kashmir issue. In response to the question whether such an incident has ever happened in Bangladesh, the former foreign secretary said, Bangladesh has never officially dismissed a diplomat of any country. However, if Bangladesh has any objection to the diplomat of any country, then it is informally informed to the concerned country. And thus the diplomat was recalled.
Besides, this agreement also mentions how big the mission of another country will be in one country. Article 11 of this agreement states that unless there is a separate agreement, the size of the mission should be reasonable considering the work of the diplomatic mission. Article 12 of the Convention on Location of Diplomatic Offices states that the country sending a diplomatic mission may not establish any office outside the office limits assigned to the mission. And the government of the receiving country cannot enter the office area of the mission without the permission of the foreign diplomatic mission head.
However, the security of the diplomatic mission has to be provided by the receiving country. The premises of diplomatic missions and their vehicles may not be searched, used, seized or attached. The Head of Mission shall be exempt from all national, regional or municipal dues and taxes in respect of the mission area i.e. they shall not pay any related taxes. Any goods imported for official use of the diplomatic mission and for the domestic use of the diplomat and his family members shall be exempt from all duties and taxes.
The bags of diplomatic agents cannot be searched unless there is a serious allegation. Article 26 of the Vienna Convention states that all members of a diplomatic mission shall have free and unfettered movement throughout the country. Their access to protected areas will be restricted only due to national security concerns.
Former Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain said that diplomats can enter reserved areas with prior approval. This month, US Ambassador to Dhaka Peter Haas went missing in Dhaka’s Shaheen Bagh BNP The incident of visiting the house of leader Sajedul Islam Sumon can be mentioned. The fact that the area is not protected does not prevent the ambassador from going there under the treaty. At the same time, the responsibility of ensuring its security rests with the government. Meanwhile, in terms of communication, not only movement but also communication by sending couriers and messages has been ensured through this agreement.
Article 27 of the Agreement states that the Mission shall ensure free communication for official purposes. They can do any kind of communication including diplomatic couriers, coded messages. However, to install a wireless transmitter, the permission of the government of the customer’s country must be required. No diplomatic bag may be opened or seized. No diplomatic courier shall be subject to arrest or detention. According to Article 29 of the Vienna Convention, foreign diplomats cannot be detained or arrested. They will remain outside the criminal justice system of the client country. They will not even be bound to testify in any case.
As the National Assembly elections in Bangladesh are approaching, the counter-activities of the main political parties are increasing and at the same time, foreign diplomats are also coming to the discussion by making various comments about the elections. However, not only the last election, foreign diplomats are seen to be active when there is a political crisis in Bangladesh. Although the ruling party ignores the various comments of the diplomats, the opposition parties always support their comments.
In such a situation, the section of the Vienna Convention that is spoken about by the government is the section 41 of the agreement. This subsection No. 1 states that persons who enjoy diplomatic status and privileges in another country shall be bound by the laws and policies of that country. Besides, they cannot interfere in any internal affairs of that country.
After the Japanese ambassador commented on Bangladesh’s election, he was asked by Bangladesh to comply with this clause. This section has two more sub-sections. As stated in subsection two of the article, all the official work of diplomats that the sending country will assign to the diplomatic mission must be done through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the receiving country or related ministries. And sub-section three states that diplomats cannot use the premises of their mission office for any purpose not related to the activities of the mission. However, these two subsections are not discussed much. Source: BBC Bangla.