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The family of a British teen killed in a crash involving a spouse of a U.S. diplomat, who has since left the United Kingdom, believes she should return to that country to face justice.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has joined the victim’s family in publicly expressing hope that Anne Sacoolas, the American diplomat’s wife, would return to the U.K., and indicated he might appeal the issue to the White House.

But whether she will be subject to possible charges depends on her protection under diplomatic immunity, a centuries-old principle of international law dating back to Roman times. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, or VCDR, universally codified this patchwork legal tradition beginning in 1961.

The VCDR has since been ratified by nearly every country in the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States. It provides diplomats with absolute immunity from criminal prosecution, and protection from most civil and administrative actions brought in the “receiving State,” or where they are stationed. A diplomat is not even required to give evidence in court as a witness under the VCDR.

There are three exceptions to a diplomat’s civil immunity, none of which are likely to apply to a motor vehicle accident allegedly caused by a diplomat.

But it was not a diplomat who is alleged to have caused this fatal crash on Aug. 27. It was his wife. No matter: the VCDR extends immunity to family members which form part of the diplomat’s household. While every country may define “family” differently, diplomats’ spouses enjoy co-extensive immunity.

If the wife is entitled to full diplomatic immunity, the U.K. plaintiffs wouldn’t fare much better bringing a lawsuit in the U.S. judicial system.

Under U.S. federal law, a district court must dismiss any case against someone entitled to immunity under the Vienna Convention.

That’s if diplomatic immunity still applies.

It may no longer apply to a wife of a diplomat who has left the receiving country and returned to her “sending,” or home, country.

Diplomats lose much of their immunity following the termination of their diplomatic status under Article 39 of the VCDR, which provides that the “immunities shall normally cease at the moment when he leaves the country … but shall subsist until that time … However, with respect to acts performed by such a person in the exercise of his functions as a member of the mission, immunity shall continue to subsist.”

Article 39 provides something less than full diplomatic immunity: “residual” immunity. Once a diplomat becomes a “former” diplomat, he or she is not immune from suit for prior acts, unless those acts were performed “in the exercise of [the former diplomat’s] functions as a member of the mission.”

Sometimes a spouse of a diplomat may not even be entitled to residual immunity because it applies only to a person who was “a member of the mission.” Just being a diplomat’s wife is not enough; she must have conducted acts as a member of the mission.

Sacoolas’ liability turns on what she did as the wife of a diplomat because residual immunity is exclusively reserved for “member[s] of the mission” only.

So now that she’s left the country, either Sacoolas, 42, has residual immunity, which only protects her from liability for official diplomatic acts, or she has no immunity at all.

Either way, she is now potentially subject to the jurisdiction of the English courts — if they can get her back from the United States. That becomes an issue of extradition, and yet another tricky issue of international law, which itself is often reduced to a tricky issue of diplomatic relations.

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Labour cash grab: Corbyn's plans will drive money OUT of the UK, warns expert

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JEREMY Corbyn’s election as Prime Minister would prompt “high-net-worth” Britons concerned at the prospect of the Labour leader’s punitive tax policies to quit the UK, a financial expert has warned.

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If ‘murderers’ and ‘rapists’ get due process, Trump should too

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A leading Republican congressman on Sunday said that the process behind the House impeachment probe of President Donald Trump is just as important as the case itself because “there’s a reason we let murderers and robbers and rapists go free when their due process rights have been violated.”

The comments from Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, came as Republicans and Democrats dominated the airwaves Sunday morning with discussion of the president’s conduct toward Ukraine, which is at the center of the investigation. Multiple Trump administration officials have testified on the record that they believed Trump was withholding roughly $400 million in military aid to the country until Ukrainian leadership publicly announced investigations into the Bidens and Democrats.

“I believe it’s inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival,” Thornberry, ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, told ABC’s “This Week.” “Now that leads to a question if there’s a political rival with a family member who is involved in questionable activity, what do you do? Just let them alone? But set that aside. I believe it was inappropriate. I do not believe it was impeachable.”

Asked why Republicans appear to be focused on process over the substance of the allegations facing the president — that he leveraged the power of the presidency to have a foreign nation investigate political opponents — Thornberry said, “There’s a reason we let murderers and robbers and rapists go free when their due process rights have been violated.”

“We believe the integrity of the system, the integrity of the constitution, the integrity of the processes under our legal system, is more important than the outcome of one particular case,” he continued. “So, I don’t think you can sweep process under the rug because it is part of an impeachment decision, which has a constitutional requirement: bribery, treason, high crimes and misdemeanors, but also a political element about whether it’s good for the country to pursue it under these circumstances.”

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He added that what Trump is accused of doing doesn’t sound much different than conduct he’s engaged in throughout his presidency.

“So, is there some sort of abuse of power that rises to that threshold that is different than the American people have been hearing for three years?” Thornberry said. “I don’t hear that.”

Speaking with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said the debate over whether Trump engaged in a “quid pro quo” — which Trump insists he did not — is “a red herring.”

Kennedy said Trump either “asked for an investigation of a political rival” or “asked for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival.”

“The latter would be in the national interest, the former would be in the president’s parochial interest and would be over the line,” he said. “I think this case is going to come down to the president’s intent, his motive, did he have a culpable state of mind.”

Democrats, meanwhile, said the evidence presented so far in the impeachment probe amount validated the idea that Trump engaged in an “extortion scheme.” Public hearings in the investigation begin this week.

“It’s important that the president has due process and evidence is not a conclusion,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told “Face the Nation.” “We have enough evidence from the depositions that we’ve done to warrant bringing this forward, evidence of an extortion scheme using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the president’s opponent. But it’s important that these witnesses raise their right hands and take questions from both Republicans and Democrats. The president is going to get that.”

Asked what makes the Ukraine investigation different from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said this time, Trump’s conduct “is a very simple, straightforward act.”

“The president broke the law,” she said. “He went on a telephone call with the president of Ukraine and said I have a favor, though, and then proceeded to ask for an investigation of his rival. And this is a very strong case of bribery, because you have an elected official, the president, demanding action of a foreign country in this case, and providing something of value, which is the investigation, and he is withholding aid, which is that official act.

“And the constitution is very clear: treason, bribery or acts of omission,” she continued. “In this case, it’s clearly one of those.”



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The audacity! Bercow claims Leave-backing MPs are to blame for Brexit delay and not him

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JOHN BERCOW has claimed Leave-supporting MPs are to blame for Brexit not being delivered on time, despite his efforts to allow lawmakers the chance to thwart the UK’s exit from the EU.

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