Recently, social media was awash news of a Ugandan army General and security Minister Elly Tumwine having been arrested by German security officials for alleged conspiracy that led to a German humanitarian Bernhard Bery Glaser’s death.
Glaser died a few months ago at Luzira Maximum prison after being granted bail by the high court. He battled cancer while in Prison after being slapped with pedophile and human trafficking charges.
However, social media reports claimed that Mr. Glaser died in Gen Tumwine’s home. The reports also indicated that German had arrested Tumwine as Defense Minister and not Security as prescribed in Gen Tumwine’s job description.
Gen Tumwine, last week dismissed such claims that he was arrested by German. However, can German arrest a Minister of a foreign country especially when s/he visits the country’s territory?
According to the world court digest, “The Head of the Government, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and other persons of high rank, when they take part in a special mission of the sending State, shall enjoy in the receiving State or in a third State, in addition to what is granted by the present Convention, the facilities, privileges and immunities accorded by international law.”
According to the European Journal of International Law, International law confers on certain state officials immunities that attach to the office or status of the official.
These immunities, which are conferred only as long as the official remains in office, are usually described as ‘personal immunity’ or ‘immunity ratione personae’. It has long been clear that under customary international law the Head of State and diplomats accredited to a foreign state possess such immunities from the jurisdiction of foreign states.
In addition, treaties confer similar immunities on diplomats, representatives of states to international organizations, and other officials on special mission in foreign states.
The predominant justification for such immunities is that they ensure the smooth conduct of international relations and, as such, they are accorded to those state officials who represent the state at the inter-national level.
International relations and international cooperation between states require an effective process of communication between states. It is important that states are able to negotiate with each other freely and that those state agents charged with the conduct of such activities should be able to perform their functions without harassment by other states.
As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has pointed out, there is ‘no more fundamental prerequisite for the conduct of relations between States than the inviolability of diplomatic envoys and embassies’.
In short, these immunities are necessary for the maintenance of a system of peaceful cooperation and co-existence among states. Increased global cooperation means that this immunity is especially important and thus cannot arrest a state official without following internal laws, International state relations and diplomacy.
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