The attack on Tuesday began when about 50 protesters invaded the offices in the vast walled compound housing the British Embassy and its manicured grounds, situated in a busy neighborhood in the heart of
. Outside the gates, thousands of student protesters chanted religious slogans and demanded the expulsion of the British ambassador. In the meantime, 200 to 300 others broke into a British diplomatic residence a few miles north of the embassy, called Tehran . The facility also houses a school. Qolhak Garden
Television images showed protesters, some armed with gasoline bombs, rampaging through offices strewn with papers, and at least one vehicle was shown burning inside the compound. There was ample evidence of the state’s complicity in the attack: police was shown as silent spectators in television footage, and in any case the security forces have maintained strict control over all large protests in Iran ever since the disputed presidential election of 2009. Further evidence of
Tehran’s complicity in the attack is apparent from the fact that the embassy attack came a day after Iran’s Parliament approved a measure to expel the British ambassador and downgrade diplomatic relations between the two countries, in retaliation for ’s new economic sanctions. Britain
The Iranian authorities have organized similar political demonstrations against foreign embassies in the past, intervening only after the protest was well under way and the message was clear.
This attack very clearly proves that
has scant regard for the provisions of international law and particularly the provisions of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961. Iran
Article 22 (1) of the Vienna Convention stipulates that the premises of the mission are inviolable and the agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
Article 22 (2) of the 1961 Convention enjoins on the receiving State (the host country) take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
So also Article 30 provides that the private residence of a diplomatic agent shall enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the mission.
Article 29 lays down that the person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.
All the three provisions referred to above were infringed with impunity in the incident in
A diplomat is an internationally protected person within the meaning of the above-mentioned Convention and at the time when and in the place where a crime against him, his official premises, his private accommodation or his means of transport is committed, is entitled pursuant to international law to special protection from any attack on his person, freedom or dignity, as well as members of his family forming part of his household.
The 1973 Convention vide Article 2 provides
1. The intentional commission of:
(a) A murder, kidnapping or other attack upon the person or liberty of an internationally protected person;
b) A violent attack upon the official premises, the private accommodation or the means of transport of an internationally protected person likely to endanger his person or liberty;
(c) A threat to commit any such attack;
(d) An attempt to commit any such attack; and
(e) An act constituting participation as an accomplice in any such attack shall be made by each State Party a crime under its internal law.
2. Each State Party shall make these crimes punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.
3. Paragraphs 1 and 2 of this article in no way derogate from the obligations of States Parties under international law to take all appropriate measures to prevent other attacks on the person, freedom or dignity of an internationally protected person.
Iran needs to be reminded that apart from the provisions of Vienna Convention, in Islamic tradition too, a messenger should not be harmed, even if coming from an arch-enemy and bearing a highly provocative or offensive message. A hadith attributes this sunnah to the time when Musaylimah sent to the Prophet Muhammad messengers who proclaimed Musaylimah be a Prophet of Allah and the co-equal of Muhammad himself.
Iran’s past record, it is indeed far-fetched to expect to abide by the rules of international law. In such circumstances, international community must take cognizance of the inherently delinquent behaviour and adopt “strong measures” to deter and prevent Iran from violating the law of nations in general as well as international treaty obligations. Iran