Security of Diplomatic Missions at Risk After US Actions Against Russia

A lawyer claims that there will be no confidence in the security of diplomatic missions in the United States or worldwide if a US court should rule after any potential trial between Russia and the United States that the Vienna Convention is not recognized as binding on American territory.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — There will be no confidence in the security of diplomatic missions in the United States or worldwide if a US court should rule after any potential trial between Russia and the United States that the Vienna Convention is not recognized as binding on American territory, lawyer Alexei Tarasov told Sputnik.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would instruct the Foreign Ministry to go to court after the US State Department closed three Russian diplomatic facilities in retaliation for Moscow’s decision to cut US diplomatic staff in Russia.

The seal of the US Department of State - Sputnik International
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On Saturday, after Russian diplomats left the building of trade representation, US security agents entered the premises and conducted a search. The Russian Foreign Ministry said US actions constituted a violation of international law, including the Vienna convention on diplomatic and consular relations.

"If the US court decides that the Vienna Convention is not binding, that all the provisions that are listed are just for show, then any diplomatic object in the US and perhaps globally may be revoked of immunity. This is a very big shift in international affairs," Tarasov, who is also the attorney for Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout, said. "Of course, the Vienna Convention and international instruments such as the UN that emerged after the World War II are designed to prevent chaos in the international system of diplomatic relations."

The lawyer said he is sure that the US State Department violated the Vienna Convention and its own regulations by blocking Russia’s property and conducting searches on the territory of diplomatic missions on Saturday.

"First of all, it should be noted that the Vienna Convention of 1963, Article 31 states that the consular premises shall be inviolable. The territory of consular premises cannot be penetrated without the consent of the head of the diplomatic mission even during the war. That means that even during most conflict situations, access to the territory of the diplomatic mission is impossible," Tarasov said.

"The Vienna Convention is, of course, in effect on the territory of the United States. But another issue that is important in this matter is the definition of whether the Vienna Convention is a self-executing international instrument from the standpoint of American law. For treaties that are not self-executing, internal US legal acts are required," Tarasov explained.

Until now, the question of whether the Vienna Convention is mandatory for implementation is not settled in the United States, he said. Tarasov reminded about the case of Mexican citizen Ernesto Medellin who was executed in the US state of Texas. His guilt is considered proven, but he was not given the opportunity to contact the consular representatives about his arrest.

The international court of the United Nations recognized the verdict of the American court as illegitimate due to violation of the Vienna Convention, he added.

However, the US Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the international court is not necessarily enforceable, since the UN charter is not a self-executing treaty on the territory of the United States. But within the framework of this decision the court stressed that in these proceedings there is no need to establish whether the Vienna Convention is a self-executing act, Tarasov said.

The Russian Federation flag flies above the Russian embassy in Washington, DC. - Sputnik International
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In addition, the lawyer believes that some subordinate acts of the United States which play an important role were also violated by the State Department.

"I am well acquainted with this topic and there are some subordinate acts that, in my professional judgment, have been violated," he said. "For example, regarding the permission to use these objects. De facto conditions for using this property are not feasible in advance. Therefore, there are violations even from standpoint of subordinate acts of the State Department itself."

On Thursday, the US State Department said in a press release that Washington had demanded that Moscow close down its Consulate General in San Francisco and two other diplomatic entities in New York City and Washington, DC by Saturday. After Russian diplomats left the building of trade representation, US security agents entered the premises and conducted a search there.

In late July, Moscow announced its decision to reduce the US diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people, the same number of diplomatic personnel Russia has in the United States. Shortly after that, the US embassy in Russia suspended processing of non-migration visas citing staff cuts.

In December 2016, then US President Barack Obama decided to expel 35 Russian diplomats and block access to two Russia's diplomatic compounds as a response to Moscow's reported meddling in presidential election in the United States.

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