Global Affairs

Of diplomatic immunity and its excesses

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while in his own country's consulate in Turkey. The history of countries enjoying diplomatic immunity for their officials and buildings dates back centuries - although such immunity is also often flouted.

The murder - or just "death", depending on whose version you choose to believe - of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside his own country's consulate in Turkey has put a spotlight yet again on one of the thorniest areas of international law: the immunity which diplomats and their buildings enjoy under international law.

For the Khashoggi case, although by far the most unusual and gruesome in many years, is hardly unique. And the question of what states can or cannot do within the compounds of their embassies in other countries is constantly alive: Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website which specialised in publishing secret documents of other countries, has avoided British justice through the simple expedient of living in the Embassy of Ecuador in London for the past six years.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2018, with the headline 'Of diplomatic immunity and its excesses'. Print Edition | Subscribe