ISLAMABAD: Amid calls from the United States for the release of its ‘diplomatic official’ Raymond Davis, Pakistan has made it clear that he will not be handed over to Washington because the matter is being probed by a court of law.
The US embassy has claimed diplomatic immunity for Davis, who is under investigation on double murder charges after allegedly killing two young motorcyclists on Thursday. A third man was crushed to death by a US consulate car that went to help Davis following the shooting. Abdul Basit, the spokesperson for the Foreign Office, told The Express Tribune that the matter was sub judice in a court of law and the legal process should be respected.
Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar also made a similar statement. “Investigations are ongoing and the legal process will have to be respected,” he told the media on Sunday.
However, Babar quashed the impression that the government was under pressure from the US. “It is wrong to say that the government has already decided to send Davis to the US,” he said.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also broke his silence on the issue on Sunday. “The federal government is not silent over this matter. This matter is in the court,” Gilani told reporters in a live televised press conference from Multan.
“The Punjab government is conducting an inquiry into this matter and I would not comment till it is completed,” he added.
Punjab’s deputy prosecutor-general, meanwhile, claimed that they have sufficient evidence indicating that Davis didn’t have a diplomatic status at the time of his arrest.
Rana Bakhtiar told The Express Tribune that it was not a case of ‘self-defence’ because Davis had shot the motorcyclists in the back. He added that Davis was not entitled to diplomatic immunity because he was holding a business visa.
Investigators also endorsed this view. They said no shot was fired from the guns recovered on the bodies of the dead motorcyclists – Faizan and Faheem. This shows Davis had not fired gunshots in ‘self-defence’.
According to the rules, every diplomat is issued a card while entering a host country and then he is listed with the protocol section that is called P2.
But official sources said Davis was not listed with the Foreign Office as a diplomat. And that a three-day delay from the US embassy in establishing Davis as a diplomat complicated the case. They added that Davis would have to face charges against him.
A former top bureaucrat said that only diplomats enjoy immunity, but that too is not blanket immunity. “It depends on the situation. A diplomat is granted immunity when he commits a crime while on official duty,” the former foreign secretary told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
Quoting Article 49(2) of the Vienna Convention, international law expert Ahmer Bilal Sufi said that immunity is granted to only those people in possession of diplomatic visa. Davis had neither diplomatic visa nor was he on official duty.
Nonetheless, the US embassy insists that David is a member of its embassy’s ‘technical and administrative staff’.
The US embassy said in a statement that “Article 37 of the (Vienna) Convention specifically extends the same criminal immunity that diplomats have to members of the technical and administrative staff of an embassy.”
Since Davis is entitled to full criminal immunity, he cannot be lawfully arrested or detained in accordance with the convention, the statement said.
The Western media, however, revealed that Davis was associated with a security contractor from a Florida-based firm, Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC. The reports did not specify the nature of the mission he was working on in Pakistan.
Additional reporting by Rana Tanveer in Lahore
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2011.