EDITORIAL: Clash of ethics and legality
The recent diplomatic spat between Britain and Ecuador highlights the potential danger lurking beneath the surface when powerful states are willing to selectively jettison conventions when dealing with Third World countries.
Under the Vienna and Geneva Conventions, member states enjoy limited diplomatic immunity. Britain is, however, willing to play the smart card by threatening to withdraw immunity from Ecuador by invoking its Diplomatic And Consular Premises Act 1987.
Barbados is faced with an international law problem with respect to the now stateless Raul Garcia and Government seems unable to find an amicable solution to this embarrassing situation.
In March 2010, Garcia had completed his term of imprisonment for drug trafficking in Barbados but remains incarcerated because Cuba has denied his repatriation to the country of his birth. Because of his track record, Garcia is now without a country to call home.
The United States, where Garcia was once an immigrant, has also refused him entry because he had fled the country to Colombia to avoid prosecution on other drug-related charges and where he assumed a new identity as Edilberto Coronell Munoz.
The Garcia case has attracted the attention of the United Nations High Commission For Refugees as no country wants him. Government has been tardy in resolving the issue despite assurances and a prison visit by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Under the 1954 Convention Relating To The Status of Stateless Persons, to which Barbados is a signatory, a stateless person cannot lawfully be expelled from Barbados save on grounds of national security or public order. We may therefore be stuck with Garcia.
We accept this is a novel case but we believe Barbados has nonetheless lost a good opportunity to demonstrate some courage and leadership in human rights and hemispheric affairs.
We do not know if this course of action is being pursued, but perhaps Barbados should use its membership of the Organization of American States (OAS) to encourage one of its Spanish-speaking members to accept Garcia.
Ecuador has successfully played its regional card in the matter involving WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange now housed in its London mission. It got a shot in the arm as South American foreign ministers passed a motion backing the inviolability of diplomatic missions.
The move has put Britain on the mat, as it seems hell-bent upon storming the Ecuador embassy in an attempt to take Assange into custody. This action cannot be justified merely on the basis of alleged sexual assault claims.
The fact is that Assange, like Garcia, is persona non grata worldwide, and shows how unethical the state apparatus could be in furthering state relations, devoid of ethics and legality.