Immunity, Consular

Immunity, Consular

 

the privileges and immunities of a consular institution and its employees for the purpose of the normal and unhindered execution of consular functions. Questions of consular immunity are regulated by the domestic legislation of each state and by international conventions and customs. The norms relating to consular immunity are codified in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963. In the USSR, questions of consular immunity are regulated by the Statute on Diplomatic and Consular Delegations of Foreign States on the Territory of the USSR of May 23, 1966, and by the consular conventions that the USSR has concluded with other countries.

In contrast to diplomatic immunity, certain consular immunities are granted by Soviet legislation only on the basis of reciprocity. For example, under Article 21 of the statute, the premises of the consulate and the residence of the head of the consulate enjoy inviolability: access to these premises may be authorized by the head of the consulate, and similarly, compulsory operations may be carried out upon his request or the request of the ambassador of that state. Inviolability of premises does not, however, give the right to use the premises for purposes incompatible with the functions of the consulate. Archives and documents are inviolable. Consulates have the right to display the flag and install the emblem of the state they represent. Consular immunity also includes the right to communicate with the consulate’s own government and with consular and diplomatic delegations of its own country, using ordinary means of communication, cipher telegrams, and the diplomatic post.

Consular representatives enjoy personal immunity and may be arrested or detained only in the event of prosecution for the perpetration of a grave crime or to execute a lawful court sentence. They have immunity from criminal, adminstrative, and civil jurisdiction over their official activity (as a rule, this clause is not extended to suits involving compensation for damage caused by a highway or transportation accident). Employees of a consulate cannot refuse to give eyewitness testimony, except testimony on questions involved with their official duties. Measures of compulsion may not be applied to them, should they refuse to give testimony. They are granted fiscal immunity (freedom from taxes and duties) on a reciprocal basis.

In some respects, the consular conventions that the USSR has signed with other states put consular immunities on the same footing as the immunities enjoyed by diplomatic representatives (for example, the consular conventions with Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, and Japan).

I. K. GORODETSKAIA

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