Saudi gives Turkey permission for search at consul’s residence after he leaves
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Amid debates on Turkey’s right to carry out a search at the residence of the Saudi consul general as part of an investigation into Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh gave permission, but late on Oct. 16, after the diplomat left Turkey.
“The consul general has immunity. It was not possible to prevent him from leaving [Turkey],” ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik said late Oct. 16, after Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi left Turkey on Oct. 16 afternoon, just as Turkish police had begun putting up barricades around his official residence.
The Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations allows consulates to be searched by the authorities of the host country with the consent of the mission’s chief. The convention requires the foreign missions to respect local laws, while also stipulates diplomatic missions to keep out of the host country’s internal affairs.
The host countries also have the authority to revoke consular clearances for embassy staff and can revoke their diplomatic immunity, effectively forcing them to leave. Host states obey these rules because of the “rule of inviolability.”
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet had called on Ankara the “inviolability or immunity” of people or premises granted under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations “should be waived immediately.”
But Turkey did not attempt to force the relevant article of the convention, which allows the host country to intervene in the diplomatic missions and officials under accusations of “serious violations,” according to an expert. This article does not clearly define the conditions of revoking the rule of inviolability, retired Turkish ambassador Uluç Özülker told Hürriyet Daily News, noting that the general practice in international relations have been on the side of not revoking this article.
Foreign diplomatic missions and diplomats have full diplomatic immunity, but there are exceptions for consulates according to the Vienna Convention, Özülker said. The former diplomat stressed that the consulates and consuls do not have “absolute immunity” as the diplomatic missions have; their inviolability is bounded merely for their official duties. As the residence of the Saudi consul general serves for his individual and personal necessities, the police would be able to interrogate him at the official residence if they were able to get into the building.