DO FOREIGN DIPLOMATS HAVE A RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CONDUCT OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS OF COUNTRIES OF WHICH THEY ARE NOT CITIZENS?
That is the key question in interpreting the dinner held in honour of Vice President-elect Robredo that foreign diplomats in the Philippines attended. The presumption is “No. Non-citizens have no right to participate in the conduct of public affairs of countries of which they are not citizens.”
What are the relevant sources of international law? I can think of two international treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) grants the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs ONLY to citizens. By implication, non-citizens don’t have that right. This exclusion is a nod to one of the sacrosanct principles in international relations: territorial sovereignty, which is essentially the power to exclude.
The next question then is what type of activities can be considered as related to the “conduct of public affairs.” CCPR General Comment No. 25 of the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN body given the task of interpreting the ICCPR, provides clarification (http://bit.ly/1Ye7Swy).
Paragraph 25: “The conduct of public affairs…is a broad concept which relates to the exercise of political power, in particular the exercise of legislative, executive and administrative powers. It covers all aspects of public administration, and the formulation and implementation of policy at international, national, regional and local levels…”
Having this in mind, is the dinner held in honour of Vice President-elect Robredo related to the exercise of political power in the Philippines? God is in the details. The organisers of that dinner has the duty to explain that that dinner is not in anyway related to the conduct of public affairs in the Philippines. Given the current political climate, do we have a reason to assume that this dinner is not related to the exercise of political power in the Philippines?
Furthermore, the diplomats who attended that dinner is duty-bound to explain that their participation in that dinner doesn’t breach their obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Article 41, paragraph 1 of the Vienna Convention states that persons enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunities “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs” of the receiving State. If the dinner is related to the exercise of political power in the Philippines, then participating in that activity may be considered an interference in the internal affairs of the country.
Things get more interesting if we consider Paragraph 2 of Article 41 of the Vienna Convention. It mandates that “all official business with the receiving State entrusted to the mission by the sending State shall be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving State or such other ministry as may be agreed.”
Was the participation of the diplomats in the dinner held in honour of Vice President-elect Robredo sanctioned by their government? If yes, then they are on official business. If that is the case, did they conduct this official business with or through the Department of Foreign Affairs? If it’s not an official business, and they are participating as private citizens, what gave them the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs of the Philippines?
You can read the first part here – Leni Robredo’s Own Game of Thrones