Fact Sheet: Diplomatic Privileges
Diplomatic privileges, immunities and exemptions were codified in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Countries that have recognized the Convention believe that granting privileges to diplomatic envoys encourages friendly relations among nations, irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems.
Therefore, these privileges are not to benefit individuals, but to ensure the efficient performance of diplomatic missions representing States.
Even though Diplomats are exempt from criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the State in which they are stationed, they are not exempt from the jurisdiction of their own Country. Moreover a Country can recall a diplomat and waive his exemption at any time.
It is also within the discretion of the host State to declare any member of the diplomatic staff persona non grata (from Latin, unwelcome person). This may be done at any time, and there is no obligation to explain such a decision. In these situations, the State which stationed them there, as a rule, would recall the person or terminate his/her function with the mission.
The Vienna Convention provides for specific measures that can be taken by both the sending and the receiving State in cases of misuse or abuse of diplomatic privileges and immunities.
Granting privileges and immunities to diplomatic envoys has been a long-standing norm of international law. The formal sending of envoys as representatives of Nation States can be traced back to practices of ancient Greece. Ambassadors exchanged between members of the Amphictyonic League (ancient association of Greek tribes) were regarded as inviolable. Similar practices can be found in ancient India and in the Roman Empire.