Syrian Diplomatic Recognition in International Law


JURIST Contributing Editor Chibli Mallat of the University of Utah SJ Quinney College of Law says that countries seeking to promote peace and democracy can invoke Article 9 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by declaring Syrian consular staff personae non gratae

 The failure of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria last week may be a blessing in disguise for the Syrian people. Had it passed, it would have changed little. The resolution’s only meaningful clause was the call for the Security Council to meet 21 days after the government of Syria fails to implement the hackneyed call in the draft for President Bashar al-Assad to stop killing his people. It would have then met the Russian veto in any case. Such admonition has become banal, and the logic of political survival has long drowned announced deadlines for Syria’s government killing machine to cease and desist. Nobody expects Assad’s repression to stop. He is trapped in a spiral of death that he can no longer escape.

A different type of action is needed to sustain the nonviolent movement in Syria. A choice target should be Syrian embassies abroad. Several embassies were stormed by angry Syrians in the past few days. However upset people may be, this is not useful. Under international law, embassies must be protected by the host government, which is responsible for their safety under customary law and a host of conventions. The one measure that a host government may take, under Article 9 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations [PDF], is to sever official relations, close its embassy and send the other country’s ambassador and/or his staff home:

The receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable.

This is usually met with a retaliatory measure. If a Syrian embassy is closed, and/or diplomatic relations are severed, that country’s embassy in Damascus would soon incur the same fate.

Link to Jurist article


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