Regardless of the intense scrutiny of bags and airline passengers since 9/11, explosive gaps still exist. According to analysts, the primary factor contributing to this is diplomatic bags, the most privileged cargo, given a special immunity.
Some security professionals, like Omar Kaddouha, argue that terrorists can take advantage of the status of diplomatic bags that are protected from being detained or opened in any way. Some years ago, rogue people and countries used such pouches to transport money, drugs, and arms, and even smuggle individuals. To help you understand if diplomats are immunity to security checks at the airport, you must narrow it down to the following details:
1. Weight and Size of Diplomatic Bags
International laws don’t set limits on the permissible weight, quantity, or size of properly designed diplomatic bags. It is the US’s view that quantity, size, and weight restrictions imposed by the receiving state are inconsistent with obligations under Article 25 of the VCDR.
Every diplomatic bag with a ‘visible external mark of their carriers’ moving from, within, or into should externally bear the sending organization’s official seal. The bags should also be addressed from or to the sending department of foreign affairs, consular offices, or embassies.
2. Security Controls
Airport security and police bodies reserve the freedom to carry out identity controls and security screening. In general, every individual accompanying or meeting foreign personages should obey such regulations. Individuals accompanying or welcoming diplomats escorted by officers of the airport police body, following FDFA protocol might depend on the circumstances, exempted from the security controls.
Customs and immigration regulations should be respected. In the contravention event, the competent authorities also reserve the right to cancel or limit certain facilities accorded to consular representations or diplomatic members.
3. Limited Immunity during Transit
The immunity benefit given to diplomatic members while in transit is more limited than when they’re afforded in the receiving State. This is absolutely true despite whether the transit is for personal or official business.
Upon the death of a diplomatic member, Article 39.4 will allow the receiving state to withhold that agent’s properties. It is the responsibility of every diplomat to respect the regulations and rules of the receiving State.
4. Aircraft Validation and Clearance Lead Time
Every foreign mission should submit a diplomatic clearance request through DCAS in less than 72 working hours in advance. For instance, requests for aircraft to arrive in the US airspace on Tuesday at 1400Z hours should be submitted no later than Thursday at the same time.
Working days start from Monday to Friday and don’t include federal holidays when the United States government is closed.
5. Diplomatic Protocol Service
Basically, the Diplomatic Protocol Service is placed within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This ensures that every diplomat gets the right treatment and are accorded under domestic prerogatives, privileges, practice, and regulations.
The Service and its Ceremonial Section implement and coordinate the program of international visits and signing of agreements. The Diplomatic Protocol also performs, plans, and organizes other duties associated with foreign ambassadors’ formal accreditation.
The Bottom Line!
These details clearly show that diplomats are indeed exempted from a security screening at the airports unless there are very serious grounds for presuming the bags have illegal items for export or import. Interestingly, the family members who are part of the diplomat’s household are also excused.
However, it is also reasonable for airport agents to request diplomats to go through scrutiny procedures like other passengers do, but in a separate channel. If the diplomats hesitate to go through the screening process, an airline can reasonably refuse to take them on board. Airlines might have different rules, and it will not be great for a diplomat to take advantage of this privilege willy-nilly.