The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries. It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country. This forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity. Its articles are considered a cornerstone of modern international relations. It has been ratified by 187 countries. The 1961 UN Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations marked its 50th anniversary in April 2011.
The treaty is an extensive document, containing 53 articles. Following is a basic overview of its key provisions.For a comprehensive enumeration of all articles, consult the original text.
Article 9. The host nation may at any time and for any reason declare a particular member of the diplomatic staff to be persona non grata. The sending state must recall this person within a reasonable period of time, or otherwise this person may lose their diplomatic immunity.
Article 22. The premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolate and must not be entered by the host country except by permission of the head of the mission. Furthermore, the host country must protect the mission from intrusion or damage. The host country must never search the premises, nor seize its documents or property. Article 30 extends this provision to the private residence of the diplomats.
Article 27. The host country must permit and protect free communication between the diplomats of the mission and their home country. A diplomatic bag must never be opened even on suspicion of abuse. A diplomatic courier must never be arrested or detained.
Article 29. Diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. They are immune from civil or criminal prosecution, though the sending country may waive this right under Article 32. Under Article 34, they are exempt from most taxes, and under Article 36 they are exempt from most customs duties.
Article 31.1c Actions not covered by diplomatic immunity: professional activity outside diplomat's official functions.
Article 37. The family members of a diplomat that are living in the host country enjoy most of the same protections as the diplomats themselves.