Thursday, October 17, 2019

Harry Dunn Family Ends its U.S. Tour

At least one good thing seems to have come out of the Dunn family's meeting at the White House this week. Although they refused to meet the woman who was at fault in the crash that killed their son, it may be that they are now ready to accept the fact that they will not get her back to the UK for any kind of judicial process.

Charlotte Charles, the mother of Harry Dunn: "If I'm totally honest, I don't hold out too much hope that she's going to be returned to us."

Nevertheless, their family lawyer / spokesman is doing his best to keep false hopes raised, it seems, by relying on the extremely bad information he's getting from activist-lawyer Mark Stephens. To summarize Stephens: the driver never had diplomatic immunity because neither she nor her husband are named in the UK's Diplomatic List, and aren't "diplomatic agents;" plus, diplomatic status only applies to diplomats posted to London; and anyway, diplomatic immunity is always waived when the receiving state so requests (there is literally no case in which it isn't!); and, if all that fails, she lost her immunity when she left the country.

All bollocks.

Regarding those 'routine' waivers of immunity, you might think that a British lawyer would remember one of the most striking cases ever of diplomatic immunity, which occurred in London in 1984 - the murder of Woman Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher by someone shooting from inside the Libyan embassy. The occupants of the embassy were allowed to leave the UK unhindered, and their bags weren't even searched for the murder weapon. What happened to that waiver?

It happens not infrequently that diplomats leave the jurisdiction after causing fatal traffic accidents. Last year, a U.S. military attache left Pakistan under exactly those circumstances.

Most aggravatingly of all, the simply facts of who gets diplomatic immunity are spelled out in black and white and are perfectly clear to anyone who cares to read the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations.

Here are the key excerpts:
Article 29

The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention.

Article 31

A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.

Article 37

The members of the family of a diplomatic agent forming part of his household shall, if they are not nationals of the receiving State, enjoy the privileges and immunities specified in articles 29 to 36.

Members of the administrative and technical staff of the mission, together with members of their families forming part of their respective households, shall, if they are not nationals of or permanently resident in the receiving State, enjoy the privileges and immunities specified in articles 29 to 35, except that the immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving State specified in paragraph 1 of article 31 shall not extend to acts performed outside the course of their duties.

To recap, the American driver is - so far as I can tell from the public record - evidently the family member of a technical and administrative staffer, and for that reason immune from the criminal jurisdiction of the UK.

The Dunn family may have a cause of civil action, but that's all. It isn't even clear whether the UK could try to extradite the driver or declare her a fugitive so long as they would be unable to prosecute her due to her immunity. 

The family's lawyer ought to read the Vienna Convention and see if he can find a loophole. At least that would be honest labor.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Who Gets Diplomatic Immunity? (Technical and Administrative Staffs Do)

Today, Radd Seiger, the spokesman / lawyer for the Harry Dunn family announced he will demand documents from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in an attempt to prove the American driver in the case was not entitled to diplomatic immunity.
"What Mark [Stephens] and I are going to do, is we are going to write to the FCO very shortly, explaining that we don't want to do a judicial review, but to avoid that, please let us have the following documents - all e-mails, messages and notes in relation to your advice to Northamptonshire Police that this lady had it [diplomatic immunity].

"What we don't know is whether somebody cocked up or whether they were put under pressure by the Americans to concede.

"But we want to conduct an investigation into the FCO's decision to advise Northamptonshire Police that this lady had the benefit of diplomatic immunity.

"If we're not satisfied, then we'll go to a judicial review and ask a High Court judge to review it all."

That is the argument which has been pushed all along by activist-lawyer Mark Stephens, and it consists of noting that the American driver's U.S. government employee husband is not named on a diplomatic list published by the UK. Stephens, by the way, evidently lifted that idea from retired UK Ambassador Craig Murray, as Murray explains in great and readable detail here.

Under international law there are three main categories of diplomatic personnel: (1) Diplomatic Agents, who conduct government-to-government business, (2) members of Administrative and Technical Staffs, who perform tasks critical to the working of a diplomatic establishment, and (3) members of Service Staffs who perform less critical support tasks. I'll omit the categories of Consular personnel.

Both Diplomatic Agents and members of Administrative and Technical Staffs, as well as their families, enjoy full diplomatic immunity from criminal jurisdiction in the receiving state. A and T staffs do not receive immunity from civil jurisdiction except for acts performed in their official duties, however, and that may be relevant to the Harry Dunn case.

The diplomatic list published in the UK, that smoking gun which Mr. Stephens is waving, does not include Administrative and Technical staffs. Such lists are protocol tools, and are not all-inclusive of the members of diplomatic establishments with criminal immunity. Nor do they include personnel who receive immunity via special bi-lateral agreements.

This publicly available source of information explains how international law on diplomatic immunity applies to technical and administrative staff of foreign missions in the U.S., which would be the same way it applies in the UK.
2 FAM 232.1-2 Members of Administrative and Technical Staff

a. Members of the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission perform tasks critical to support the operation of the mission. Accordingly, they enjoy immunities identical to those of diplomatic agents in respect of personal inviolability, immunity from criminal jurisdiction, and immunity from any requirement to provide evidence as witnesses. Their immunity from civil jurisdiction, however, is less extensive than that of diplomatic agents. Members of the administrative and technical staff enjoy immunity from civil jurisdiction only in connection with the performance of their official duties.

b. Like those of diplomatic agents, the recognized family members of administrative and technical staff enjoy the same inviolability and immunities from the host country's jurisdiction as their sponsors. They thus have complete immunity from criminal jurisdiction of the host State. However, since these family members perform no official duties, they enjoy no immunity from civil jurisdiction.

See this handy booklet which is provided to local police by the U.S. State Department to help them sort out who gets what immunity. It has an even handier chart on page 48.

Here's a hint to Radd Seiger: while you're asking the FCO for all those e-mails and memos, you might also ask whether they provide similar guidance or training to the Northamptonshire Police.

Monday, October 14, 2019

"Do the Right Thing" - Parents of Harry Dunn Begin U.S. Media Tour

The "right thing" in this case is now defined exclusively as the U.S. spouse returning to the UK with her diplomatic immunity waived. That is now a non-negotiable condition. Doomed to failure, I expect, but the family's hopes have now been raised to that point.

The family was interviewed on CBS News this morning, and they'll appear on other New York media before going to Washington later this week. They are being assisted by a lawyer/spokesman, an American citizen resident in the UK who is reportedly a friend of the family and therefore personally involved.

The message the family wishes to get across to the American public seems to have firmed up in the last day or two. Unfortunately, in addition to all the anguish they're experiencing, the family, aided by most of the media, is fooling itself on some key points.

The latest myth, which emerged the same day the family departed the UK, is that the American driver "no longer has immunity" and therefore she can be extradited back to the UK. That is nonsense, and seems to be based on misinterpretation of the wording of two official statements. The UK Foreign Office stated that the American driver's immunity and any question of waiver is "no longer relevant" now that she has left the country, and the U.S. State Department agreed her immunity is "no longer pertinent." I don't know when it was that the news media lost the ability to read, but those words do not mean that the driver lost or never had diplomatic immunity, or that it has been waived.

It is routinely said by the family and in news accounts that the American driver "claimed diplomatic immunity." Wrong. The USG invoked the immunity that she had under international law; that decision was not up to her. Likewise, much is made about her choosing to leave the UK. Wrong again. After immunity was invoked. she had to either leave or be expelled by the UK government.

"You cannot just walk away from that" fatal accident, the father of Harry Dunn said in this morning's news conference. I appreciate the emotional and moral weight behind that statement. Nevertheless, the hard fact is that a person with full diplomatic immunity can just walk away from that, and they do.

The family's lawyer discussed possible civil action in the U.S. against the driver. Maybe that will happen. No doubt an insurance company in either the U.S. or UK is involved, so there could be some kind of legal settlement. But, that will not compel the driver to return to the UK.

The family often expresses the hope that publicity in the U.S. will force the USG to send the driver back to face the UK justice system. But the government cannot order an employee or an employee's spouse to leave the U.S. and subject themselves to adverse legal proceedings. The UK can attempt to extradite her, but then, there's that matter of diplomatic immunity again. 

Most futile of all is the family's hope that "this is now an opportunity" to change international law on diplomatic privileges and immunities, which are merely "dusty bits of paper" that were signed way back in 1961. I'm sure there are advocates for doing that. How exactly you would go about changing an international convention is another thing altogether,

Unless something changes, those false hopes have created an absolute obstacle in the path of the grieving process the family needs to go through.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Privileges and Immunities Meet Social Media This Week

The crash occurred at the crest of this hill 400 meters from RAF Croughton's gate

Diplomatic immunity, who gets it and when it might be waived, is explained in this publicly available source of information. Pay close attention to 2 FAM 221.5, Waiver of Immunity. That topic will feature in the news this week and maybe for some time to come.

You've probably seen accounts of the tragic death of Harry Dunn, the 19 year-old who was killed in a wrong-way driving accident just outside the gate of a U.S. Air Force facility in the UK. The spouse of a U.S. government official was at fault. Because she was covered by full diplomatic immunity, she departed the UK after the crash and will not face the British legal system. News media in the UK have gone wild ever since.

The most sparse and unsentimental story I've seen is this one from the BBC. The UK Daily Mail has the longest and most personal story I've seen: She's the American diplomat's wife who fled after a car crash that killed a teenager. Here, the victim's family recount the full horror of their loss — and the toll it's taken on the twin so grief-stricken he couldn't leave home:
This week the family appealed to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to intervene. He told them the U.S. government had refused two requests to waive Mrs Sacoolas’ immunity. Now they believe the only way to ensure their son’s death is not ‘swept under the carpet’ is to reveal the full detail of his horrific death.

The family’s only hope now is that the court of public opinion will bring pressure to bear on President Trump.

-- snip --

The nation — indeed the world — has been shocked since news of Harry’s death broke last weekend. He was killed near RAF Croughton, a U.S. intelligence hub, in Northamptonshire on August 27. It is said that Mrs Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road when the collision happened.

Six days after Harry’s death when officers from Northampton told them they intended to charge Mrs Sacoolas with death by dangerous driving — for which, if found guilty, she would face a custodial sentence — they asked the charge to be reduced to death by careless driving.

‘They told us two of her children were in the car with her,’ says Charlotte. ‘That broke us. We were really upset for them. How on earth must those children be feeling? They must be extremely traumatised. That was shocking.

‘We were very honest with the police and said, although we obviously wanted justice for our son, as parents ourselves, we wanted to work with the police and courts to get the charge reduced and push for a suspended sentence so she could carry on being a mum.

‘Now looking back we actually curse ourselves for being so understanding.’

Charlotte cries. ‘We’re six weeks on and we’ve had nothing. It’s like Harry’s worth nothing. They’ve swept him under the carpet.’

-- snip --

Charlotte continues: ‘We’re not vengeful people but the longer this goes on and we hear nothing from her, the more the anger mounts. We have accepted this is a terrible accident from day one. I want to hear her side of the story.

She looks at Tracey. ‘We still can’t understand as mothers ourselves that she thinks it was the right thing to do to get on a plane and run away.’

Tracey agrees. ‘In our opinion diplomatic immunity is to protect a diplomat who is in danger so they can be removed from the danger. Anne Sacoolas was not in danger but Harry lost his life. We, Harry’s family, need that justice.’

Some UK news media have played up the class resentment angle, which is fed by the large fees charged by the international school the U.S. diplomat's children attended, and the coincidence that the father of Harry Dunn is a maintenance worker at the same school:
Sacoolas had been in the UK less than a month when the incident occurred, and her children were attending the expensive and prestigious Winchester House private school, where Dunn’s father Tim worked as a maintenance man.

Although the reasons for maintaining strict protections around diplomatic immunity do have some justifications, the Sacoolas case reveals the various shortcomings and hypocrisies that can be involved. In addition to being a tense point right now in British-American relations, the case brings up stark class division, with the wealthy Sacoolas family able to skate away on their privilege as the working-class Dunn family is left grieving for their dead son.

The basic matter of diplomatic immunity keeps being misunderstood - as well as resented - in part because the Dunn family's lawyer and spokesman insists on his own bizarre misinterpretation of the facts, one in which (1) the American spouse was not entitled to it, despite the Foreign Office having affirmed all along that she was, and (2) that diplomatic immunity is routinely waived.
“Our position is that she doesn’t have immunity and that waivers are always granted in these circumstances,” Radd Seiger, a spokesman for the family, told reporters.

Waivers are most certainly not always granted, or ever granted, in these circumstances. Mr. Seiger is way off base about that, but he might be sincerely misinformed. He could have done some superficial research and been confused by the many waivers that are granted on narrow technical grounds, such as when a diplomat testifies in a foreign court, or when necessary in domestic matters such as child custody and support. But in cases such as this one where there are adverse affects to the interests of the U.S. government or its employees, the USG is, indeed, "absolutely ruthless in safeguarding" the Ps and Is of its diplomats and their families, as no less than PM Boris Johnson recently told the Dunn family.

The latest twist, announced today, is that Mr. Seiger has arrived in the U.S. and been contacted by attorneys for the American spouse.
Radd Seiger, spokesman and adviser for the family, told ITV on Saturday: “I have just landed on a flight from London and had a very brief phone conversation with the legal team representing Anne Sacoolas.

“We have agreed to meet each other at the earliest possibility as soon as we can co-ordinate our diaries.”

UK outlets have now published a statement from the spouse's attorneys in which she is quoted as saying "Anne would like to meet with Mr. Dunn's parents so that she can express her deepest sympathies and apologies for this tragic accident."

So, the family of Harry Dunn will arrive in the U.S. today, and they will pursue a media-heavy strategy complete with Twitter, Facebook, and GoFundMe pages, aimed at persuading the American public to demand that their government compel the offending American spouse to return to the UK and face its justice system.

I sincerely hope there will not be a personal meeting between them; really, that would not be in anyone's interest. The spouse has been thoroughly demonized in the British press, and she is no doubt traumatized herself from the crash and its aftermath. More importantly, at this point, the Dunn family is evidently unwilling to accept anything short of the spouse returning to the UK for trial, but we may be sure that will not happen.

Given that impasse, what would be the point of a group hug?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Shanks [Florida] Middle School teacher got high on meth and coke before school - WCTV Eyewitness News (Quincy Florida)

A Shanks Middle School teacher was arrested after he told investigators he got high on meth and cocaine before school, then took Xanax during his lunch break ... He was discovered at the Burger King in Quincy by a police officer, who took him to the emergency room because of his behavior.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

HRC - Baby, Baby, Baby, You're Out of Time

"I mean, obviously I can beat him again.”

Oh, obviously. But then, she didn’t conduct that PBS interview from the White House, did she?

By all means, yes, beat him again. But Hillary had better hurry if she intends to beat him in 2020, since the deadlines for filing and getting on ballots will soon be here. The first Democratic primary event will take place in Iowa on February 3, 2020. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina also hold primaries in February, and Super Tuesday will be on March 3, 2020.

The much bigger problem for Hillary is that, this time, there are other Democrats already running. About 19 others as of today. All those who would have run a couple election cycles ago just for the name recognition and favor-trading needed to climb the slippery pole. Except they didn't, because ClintonWorld kept them away from challenging Hillary's manifest destiny.

What Democrats ran against Hillary for the nomination last time? In the debates she faced Bernie, a rare quasi-Democrat who did not need ClintonWorld approval because he wasn't actually a Democrat but an Independent until he filed to run, and who went back to being an Independent as soon as the primary season was over. There was Martin O’Malley, ex-Governor of Maryland and ex-Major of Baltimore, essentially forgettable. There was Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican U.S. Senator and Governor of Rhode Island, who became a Democrat only in 2013 and whose most distinctive position was to advocate for conversion to the Metric system. And there was Jim Webb, a former Reagan Navy Secretary and U.S. Senator from Virginia, who dropped out of the Democratic race even before the primaries began because he was "not comfortable" and "unhappy" with the party's political positions.

That’s not the Democrat’s A-Team. The A-team, and the B and C teams, didn’t dare get in Hillary’s way back when ClintonWorld was a powerful, and vengeful, force. But now Hillary is reduced to hawking cut-and-paste books, and no one is afraid of her or Bill.

At times like this, you need the wisdom of the Rolling Stones.

You don't know what's going on,
You've been away for far too long,
You can't come back and think you are still mine.
You're out of touch, my baby,
My poor discarded baby,
I said, baby, baby, baby, you're out of time.

It's the truth. You can't come back and be the first in line, oh no. You're obsolete, my baby, my poor old fashioned baby.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Cops bust turnstile jumper heading to court with pot and a loaded gun" - New York Post

Ex-con Billy Walters, 37, allegedly slipped through an emergency subway gate at the 149th Street station without paying at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to an arrest affidavit. When a police officer stopped him, she allegedly spotted a loaded .45-caliber Sig Sauer in his waistband — at which point he rattled off the worst excuse ever, the officer said. “I didn’t pay, because I was running late to go to court. I got arrested yesterday,” Walters allegedly blabbed to her.

He sounds like a perfect audience for Chris Rock's public service announcement

"If you jump a subway turnstile, you might just get off with a warning from the police. But if you jump a turnstile carrying a loaded gun and smoking a joint, then maybe you NEED your ass kicked."