The Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled on Monday that the matter of immunity for US citizen Raymond Davis will be decided by the trial court, and disposed of all petitions challenging his diplomatic status in Pakistan.
When the government replied vaguely on the issue, LHC Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry silenced petitioners’ lawyers — who created pandemonium after hearing unclear replies submitted by the foreign ministry, — by observing that since the Davis trial was in progress, the trial court should be allowed to “adjudicate on this matter”.
Questioning the government counsel if his side had submitted any letter establishing his diplomatic status, the chief justice said that if the foreign ministry did not issue any letter for the diplomatic status of the accused, why should the court insist on submitting such a certificate?
The court has already put the accused’s name on exit control list to stop him from going abroad.
As according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 and Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the federal government is supposed to issue a certificate to prove diplomatic immunity of any foreigner.
On Monday, the federal government did not produce any such certificate.
However, in response to court queries, the ministry of foreign affairs wrote back: “Raymond Davis is a US citizen and he was given a visa on the request of the US government. Davis came to Pakistan on official business visa and the US embassy notified his name to the foreign ministry as Raymond Allen Davis. No efforts are being made by the foreign minister to alter the record (to favour the accused). The US embassy had approached the foreign ministry on January 27 with the request to release Mr Davis and hand over him to US consulate-general, Lahore, as he was holding a diplomatic passport. The foreign ministry is not interfering in…any investigation.”
Interestingly, all replies submitted by the foreign ministry were signed by Khalil Ahmed Bajwa, the deputy chief of protocol, ministry of foreign affairs’ camp office in Lahore. None of the replies contain answers to questions raised by the high court:
The foreign ministry, through Deputy Attorney-General Naveed Inayat Malik, simply reproduced the questions asked by the LHC.
Some analysts are of the view that no one, including the federal government and the judiciary, appears to be ready to take the responsibility for making clear decisions on key issues like diplomatic immunity.
The court was hearing identical petitions filed by Asif Hussain Shah, Ahmad Masood Gujar Advocate, Barrister Muhammad Javed Iqbal Jafree, advocate Rana Ilumddin Ghazi, who had challenged the diplomatic immunity status and opposed handing over Raymond Davis to the US.
However, the court issued a notice to the federal government for March 29 in a petition filed by Muhammad Azhar Siddique, a lawyer, who has challenged the Vienna conventions, terming them to be “against the Constitution of Pakistan”.
However, the petitioner’s counsel Barrister Jaffree submitted that it was important to establish “correct identity of the accused” because if he was not who he said he was, then he could be prosecuted under the law.
Commenting upon the decision, Jafree said that the trial court already had declared that accused Davis had no immunity therefore, the same court could not adjudicate on the same point. He said Davis could file an appeal for his immunity before the Lahore High Court.
Another lawyer, Muhammad Azhar Siddique, contended that the government was obliged to submit a certificate under Section 4 of Privileges Act of 1972 to ascertain whether Davis was a diplomat or not. He alleged that the government was just “wasting the court’s time by filing incomplete replies”.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2011.