By Abdul Bari Masoud
Tehran/ New Delhi: A group of university professors, lawyers and jurists on Thursday expressed solidarity with the Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi who was arrested while crossing the border into Germany. They underlined that Assadi’s detention in Belgium is the serious violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention as well as diplomatic practice. Demanding diplomat’s immediate release, they urged the United Nations to intervene into the matter..
On July1, 2018, Mr. Assadollah Assadi, the third counselor of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Austria, was arrested while crossing the border into Germany. The move was prompted by a European arrest warrant issued by a court in Belgium on “trumped-up” charges. Following that, his diplomatic immunity was revoked by the Austrian Government and he was extradited to Belgium, and two years later, the case was sent to the court in July 2020.
In a statement issued to the international media, the group noted that:
“In diplomatic law, the political staff of embassies shall enjoy immunity. According to Article 29 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State. Furthermore, Article 29 refers to the inviolable character of the diplomatic agent where it announces that: “the person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.” In case a diplomatic agent violates the national law of the receiving State, he/she shall enjoy inviolability from both legal/criminal jurisdictions of every kind. In the worst case scenario, the receiving State can declare him/her persona non grata which could subsequently result in termination of his/her function with the mission. In other words, declaring ‘persona non grata’ is the severest diplomatic action the receiving State can impose against the diplomatic agent.”
Also, under Article 40 of the Convention, “if a diplomatic agent passes through or is in the territory of a third State, which has granted him a passport visa if such visa was necessary, while proceeding to take up or to return to his post, or when returning to his own country, the third State shall accord him inviolability and such other immunities as may be required to ensure his transit or return. The same shall apply in the case of any members of his family enjoying privileges or immunities who are accompanying the diplomatic agent, or travelling separately to join him or to return to their country,” the statement added.
Accordingly, a diplomat who is returning to his or her place of mission (while being on leave or from the sending State) shall enjoy diplomatic immunity.
It further highlighted that Assadi, due to the official visit of the President of Iran to Vienna and the need to attend the welcoming ceremony, started to move towards Vienna but on his way back to the Embassy of Iran in Vienna, he was arrested ‘unlawfully’ by the German police.
“We, the undersigned, a group of university professors, lawyers and jurists, while declaring the actions of the German and Belgian governments as a serious violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention as well as diplomatic practice, do believe that the detention of Mr. Assadollah Assadi in Europe is internationally unlawful.”
Signatories also requested the United Nations to hold the Belgian and German States accountable for their actions, with the purpose of safeguarding the fundamentals of diplomatic relations, and the need for respecting the provisions of the Convention.
They also urged the Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to seriously pursue the issue of bringing a claim against these two States before the International Court of Justice and to inform the public opinion and the legal community of the country about the actions taken.
They announced that they will pursue the case in coordination with the relevant institutions.
“We declare our preparedness to pursue the case in coordination with the relevant institutions and request the legal community, especially lawyers, to participate in the campaign for Mr. Assad’s freedom”.