Immune From the Law

Anne Sacoolas, wife of diplomat Jonathan Sacoolas, is suspected of killing 19-year-old Harry Dunn on the 27th of August in a road accident. Her car was allegedly driving on the wrong side of the road – an accident which, President Trump has suggested, occurred due to Sacoolas forgetting that cars drive the opposite way in the UK to the US. Shortly after the accident, Sacoolas flew to the United States of America. The UK government has called for the American government to waive her immunity. The White House has refused, failing to cite a reason. In a letter to Dunn’s parents, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab has suggested Mrs Sacoolas’s return to her homeland has rendered her immunity irrelevant.

Diplomatic immunity is necessary to ease international relations: it allows a diplomat to represent their country’s government abroad without fear of being arrested. This is especially important if they are in a country where laws and customs are radically different from what they are accustomed to, or if the country they are visiting is at war with their own. Naturally, this immunity extends to their families, since they may be detained and held to ransom, or may be privy to confidential information. Indeed, it has been suggested by the Washington Examiner that Sacoolas’s husband may have worked for the CIA, further complicating the issue.

Dunn’s parents, however, refuse to give up their fight for justice and are demanding that Sacoolas be returned to the UK and face justice. The British government’s decision to waive Sacoolas’ immunity on UK soil shows that, as far as the Home Office is concerned, her right to protection should not stretch to manslaughter. Trump’s failure to hold Sacoolas to account reeks of cronyism, and his failed attempt to railroad Dunn’s parents into meeting Sacoolas on their visit to the White House was as inadequate as it was insensitive. For a grieving family, justice may not bring their son back, but the last thing they deserve is Harry’s death being rendered null and void by laws which should hold everyone to account, diplomats’ spouses or not.

[Liam Caldwell – he/him]

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