"… the purpose of … privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions as representing States," / " … of functions by consular posts on behalf of their respective States;" (Preambles of the VCDR, 1961 and of the VCCR, 1963)
Given their immunity from jurisdiction, Missions’ foreign collaborators are in principle not expected to appear before French courts in criminal, civil and administrative cases. Under immunity from execution, no coercive measures may be applied to them.
The extent of immunities varies depending on the status of agents. Members of the Diplomatic Corps enjoy immunities in their professional and private lives, thus full immunity. For other agents, immunities are applicable most of the time solely within the performance of their functions, as shown in detail in the following table:
Extent of immunities
|Functions||Immunity from criminal jurisdiction||Immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction||Immunity from execution|
|Diplomatic agents and their families||Full||Full - allowing for exceptions, cf. VCDR, 1961, Art.31(1)||Full - allowing for exceptions, cf. VCDR, 1961, Art.31(3)|
|Career and honorary consular officersvaleur||Acts accomplished in performance of their functionsv||Acts accomplished in performance of their functions - allowing for exceptions, cf. VCCR, 1963, Art.43(2)||Within framework of an action relating to an act accomplished in performance of their functions|
|Administrative and technical staff and their families||Fullvaleur||Acts accomplished in performance of their functions||Full - allowing for exceptions, cf. VCDR, 1961, Art.31(3)|
|Consular employees||Acts accomplished in performance of their functions||Acts accomplished in performance of their functions||Within framework of an action relating to an act accomplished in performance of their functions|
|Embassy service staff||Acts accomplished in performance of their functions||Acts accomplished in performance of their functions||Within framework of an action relating to an act accomplished in performance of their functions|
On termination of functions, immunity is retained solely for the acts involved in the performance of those functions.
These provisions are not applicable to holders of the card SE/C.
Appearing in court as a witness
The diplomats and administrative and technical staff of an Embassy and their families may give evidence but are not required to do so.
Members of a consular post may be called upon to attend as witnesses in the course of judicial or administrative proceedings. Consular employees and the service staff of a consulate may not refuse to give evidence.
However, members of a consular post are under no obligation to give evidence concerning matters relating to their functions or to produce official correspondence and documents relating thereto. They are also entitled to decline to give evidence as expert witnesses with regard to the law of the sending State. The evidence of a consular officer may, when possible, be taken at his residence or at the consular post or in the form of a statement from him in writing. (VCCR, 1963, Art.44).
However, no coercive measure or penalty may be applied to a consular officer who declines to give evidence.
Updated : July 2012
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