Diplomatic immunity goes back thousands of years - expert

Morning Talk 19/04/2018
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International relations expert Al Gillespie from Waikato University says the tradition of diplomatic immunity goes back more than 1,000 years.

He commented on the case of an European Union diplomat who skipped the country after owing a landlord thousands of dollars for damage to a property she had rented. She was also only a few months into a three year tenancy.

Mr Gillespie says the tradition of diplomatic immunity aims to protect the representatives of foreign governments from exploitation while based overseas.

“Diplomats overseas are vulnerable to be exploited,  and so you have to make sure they can’t be sued under criminal law or civil law for fear that they could be made to do fraudulent acts against a government.

“It works on a reciprocal basis, so our diplomats are protected and their diplomats are protected.” he told Mark Sainsbury.

The landlord who rented his high-end house to the EU diplomat says he was left "high and dry" after a diplomat walked away with $14,000 owed in rent and damage to the property.

The Tenancy Tribunal ruled landlords Matthew Ryan and Rebecca Den Bos were owed the money from tenant Eva Tvarozkova, European Union first secretary and deputy head of mission.

Diplomats are entitled to automatic diplomatic immunity from New Zealand courts.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) initially said the tribunal should never have got involved, because Ms Tvarozkova is entitled to diplomatic immunity. The Ministry planned to appeal to the tribunal next month.

But the Ministry is now asking the European Union to consider waiving diplomatic immunity.

"In this case, the Ministry was not notified by any of the parties prior to the Tribunal's hearing," an MFAT spokesperson told Newshub.

"Once notified, in accordance with our legal obligations, the Ministry advised the Tribunal to consider the issue of immunity because at the time of the Tribunal hearing, it was unaware that diplomatic immunity was an issue.

They (the landlords) should not be out of pocket

"Once alerted to this fact, the tribunal ordered a formal hearing to consider the effect of the diplomatic immunity on the case."

The Karaka, Wellington property was being rented for $1500 a week on a fixed-term three-year lease, the Tenancy Tribunal ruling said. Ms Tvarozkova left the property after eight months.

"I thought I had the security of a three-year tenure but they left with rent arrears, they caused some damage to the property before they left, gave me no notice of leaving," Mr Ryan told NZME.

The Tribunal ruled Ms Tvarozkova owed $17,357 in rent, plus costs for damage to the property. Her $6000 of bond reduced the final amount owing to $14,314.

Al Gillespie says our Government should really cover the costs faced by the landlord.

“The option here is that the person who is owed the money should be paid the money by the New Zealand Government because the protection is for the New Zealand diplomats overseas. They (the landlords) should not be out of pocket.”

Listen the full interview with Al Gillespie above.

Some of the content of this article appeared earlier on Newshub.co.nz

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