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VIENNA CONVENTION ON DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

TUESDAY, JULY 6, 1965

UNITED STATES SENATE,

SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS,

Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:05 a.m., in room 4221, New Senate Office Building, Senator Frank Church presiding.

Present: Senators Church and Clark.
Also present: Senators Sparkman and Case.
Senator CHURCH. The subcommittee will please come to order.

The subject for the hearing this morning is Executive H of the 88th Congress, 1st session, of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, together with an optional protocol on the settlement of disputes under it.

(For text of Vienna Convention see p. 40.)

Senator CHURCH. This is the first time a comprehensive international convention on this subject has been before the Committee on Foreign Relations, and I hope that members other than the subcommittee members who are interested in this subject will be present today. I understand that several other Senators plan to attend the hearings this morning.

The principal witness from the Department of State is the Honorable Leonard C. Meeker, Legal Adviser of the Department of State.

Mr. Meeker, you are here, are you not? Please come up and be seated.

STATEMENT OF LEONARD C. MEEKER, LEGAL ADVISER,

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Mr. MEEKER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Senator CHURCH. I might say, Mr. Meeker, that if there are subjects that come up during the questioning this morning which you would prefer to discuss in executive session, please say so, and we will arrange an executive session for that purpose.

Mr. MEEKER. Thank you, sir.

NEED FOR HEARINGS ON CONVENTION

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Senator CHURCH. Since this is a rather major convention with which this committee has had no past familiarity, this may be the first of several hearings that may be required before the committee acts.

Mr. Meeker, why don't you proceed with your opening statement.

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BACKGROUND OF DIPLOMATIC CONVENTION

Mr. MEEKER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate this opportunity of appearing before the special subcommittee in support of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, also the optional protocol concerning compulsory settlement of disputes which accompanies the convention, and further I should like to speak very briefly about some draft legislation which the administration will very shortly be submitting to the Congress to complement the Vienna Convention itself.

Since 1790 the United States has accorded diplomatic privileges and immunities to foreign diplomatic missions and their personnel thereof pursuant to customary international law and statutes which have been enacted from time to time to clarify the application of this customary international law.

The United Nations General Assembly as early as 1952 expressed its interest in the common observance by all governments of existing principles of international law and practice regarding diplomatic intercourse and immunities, particularly in regard to the treatment of diplomatic representatives, and the Assembly asked the International Law Commission to give priority to study of this topic. The Commission is an organ of the United Nations on which there is regularly an American representative.

The present American member is Professor Briggs of Cornell University.

In 1958 the International Law Commission adopted draft articles which it recommended be considered by governments with a view to the conclusion of a convention. In December 1959 the General Assembly convened a conference to meet at Vienna, Austria, in the spring of 1961 to consider these draft articles. The 1961 Vienna Conference examined the articles in the light of modern conditions, surveying the body of law and practice which had developed over the years regarding the rights, duties, and privileges of diplomatic missions and their staffs. All delegations at the conference recognized the great need for an agreed international standard of treatment of diplomatic missions and their personnel.

The convention which resulted from the deliberations of 81 nations participating at the 1961 Vienna Conference is a significant step forward in international cooperation, and should facilitate in years to come the conduct of diplomatic relations. The Vienna Convention goes far toward clarifying the obligations of states concerning the treatment to be accorded foreign diplomatic missions and their personnel. Because of its definite rules and procedures, the convention should reduce materially the possibility of misunderstandings between governments in this area of their relations.

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JUSTIFICATION FOR RATIFICATION

Ratification of the Vienna Convention in our opinion makes advisable certain adjustments in U.S. law and practice relating to diplomatic missions and their personnel. Accordingly, the Department of State, in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department, has prepared some draft legislation which I believe will shortly be transmitted to the Congress and which we trust will soon be before this committee for its consideration.

When a state agrees to receive a foreign diplomatic mission, it assumes under international law the obligation to accord to the mission and its personnel appropriate privileges and immunities. These diplomatic privileges and immunities are not benefits for the individuals concerned, for the diplomats themselves. Instead they are protections which experience has long established are essential to assure the effective performance of the functions of diplomatic missions. These protections are what the United States needs for its missions and personnel abroad, and by the same token these are what the United States must be willing to provide here in the United States. This is the rationale for the convention and proposed legislation.

Previous treaties relating to diplomatic privileges and immunities to which the United States is a party have provided merely that certain categories of diplomatic representatives shall receive the rights, privileges, and benefits generally accorded to other diplomatic representatives under international law and practice. In contrast, the Vienna Convention specifies exactly what privileges and immunities shall be provided for the members of diplomatic missions and their families.

We believe ratification of the Vienna Convention by the United States is a desirable means of resolving, in orderly fashion, many questions in such fields as immunity from jurisdiction, customs privileges, and tax exemptions. Problems regarding these matters have been arising throughout the world with increasing frequency as the numbers of diplomatic missions and the size of their staff's have grown. In the absence of clearly formulated rules as to what is required in given circumstances, the practice of governments is tending to vary widely.

PROVISIONS OF CONVENTION

The main features of the Vienna Convention are described in the report of the Secretary of State and the report of the U.S. delegation which accompany the convention. I shall not attempt a detailed outline of its provisions, but instead shall discuss some general features that are particularly worth noting.

First I should like to emphasize that this convention is for the most part a codification of principles heretofore observed by governments in their practice. For instance, the division of chiefs of mission into three classes--ambassadors, ministers, and chargé d'affaires—and the provision that they shall rank in each class in order of seniority as determined by their arrival in the receiving state, is essentially a restatement of the Vienna regulation which was adopted in 1815, at the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Similarly, the provisions regarding the inviolability of the premises of the mission, its archives, and its communications, and the immunity of the chief of mission and other diplomatic officers and their families from arrest and prosecution reflect practice which developed long before 1815, in fact go very far back in history.

In some areas where practice has not been uniform or has not been considered appropriate in the light of modern conditions, the convention establishes new rules. One such change provides that while members of the administrative and technical staff of the mission shall

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