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.