ISLAMABAD: US officials have indirectly warned that their country could approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ), if the spat over their ‘consular employee’ Raymond Davis, is not resolved in accordance with the Vienna Convention.
In a related development, Western newspapers have revealed that they knew that Davis, who is facing double murder charges, was employed by the American spy agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, but the information had been withheld on the request of the US administration. However, US diplomatic officials on Wednesday continued to insist that Davis was a member of the ‘technical and administrative staff’ of their mission in Pakistan and hence immune from criminal prosecution.
Davis, who is currently on judicial remand in Kot Lakhpat Jail, was arrested after he allegedly shot dead two Pakistanis at a busy bus stop in Lahore on January 27. US officials claim that the killings resulted from a ‘botched robbery’ attempt.
US diplomatic officials told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity that if Pakistan did not honour the Vienna conventions, the US could move the ICJ. They added that the ICJ rulings are mandatory for all signatories to the Vienna Convention.
The US officials said that the Pakistan government could declare any diplomat persona non grata and ask him to ‘pack up and go’, but it could not try any diplomat in any case.
They ruled out the criminal prosecution of Davis who, according to them, enjoys ‘blanket immunity.’ They hinted that Davis’s CIA links had no bearing on his diplomatic immunity because, according to them, anybody could be appointed as a diplomat by a country.
The US officials also claimed that it was not necessary for a diplomat to acquire his/her diplomatic card from the host country.
However, a top foreign ministry official contradicted the claim and termed it bizarre. “It’s mandatory for diplomats to get their diplomatic cards and other necessary documents from the foreign ministry after landing in a host country,” the official told The Express Tribune.
US officials claimed that the US Embassy in Islamabad had declared Davis’s diplomatic status on January 20. But senior officials in the Foreign Office say that they had not received any intimation from the US mission in this regard before the Lahore shooting.
The US Embassy has allegedly been pressuring the Foreign Office to forge the records and backdate Davis’ diplomatic status.
Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had also corroborated these allegations on the floor of the National Assembly on Tuesday. He told lawmakers that he had refused the foreign ministry because he feared the government would force him to forge documents to prove Davis’s diplomatic status.
On Wednesday, the US official renewed the demand for the ‘unconditional and early’ release of Davis. US Senator John Kerry, on a recent trip to Pakistan, had promised a thorough investigation by the US Justice Department if Davis was released by Pakistani authorities.
Qureshi advised the US not to publicly demand diplomatic immunity for Davis. Qureshi recalled that he had refused diplomatic immunity to Davis despite US pressure and had instead made it clear to the Americans that the matter was ‘sensitive’ which could have far-reaching repercussions.
“If asked, I will appear before the Lahore High Court to share my views on the issue which is that Davis does not have blanket immunity,” Qureshi told a gathering at the Rawalpindi district bar on Wednesday. (With additional reporting by OBAID ABABSI in Rawalpindi)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2011.