Abuse of privileges and immunities by diplomats

Other Names:
Abuse of diplomatic immunity
Abuse of privileges and immunities by international civil servants

Members of diplomatic staffs in embassies, consulates or missions accredited to foreign governments or international inter-governmental bodies, may flout the civil or criminal codes of their host country knowing they have diplomatic immunity from prosecution. On instructions from their governments they may engage in: military or industrial espionage; spy recruitment using entrapment methods; and harassment, abduction or assassination of expatriates from their own countries. Expulsion of diplomatic staff is an insufficient deterrent against these abuses.


Offences not prosecuted due to diplomatic immunity range from parking tickets (75,000 cancelled tickets in London alone for the first nine months of 1983); to the smuggling of firearms, drugs, and blackmarket currencies; to child abuse (reported in the UK and USA); and to attempted homicide (USA). The 1983 shooting outside the Libyan People's Bureau, in London in which a London policewoman was killed, raised the question of and public interest in whether the firearms used were smuggled in diplomatic bags which, due to diplomatic immunity, could not be searched.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST