BIZ-COLUMN: Global Affairs- Of diplomatic immunity and its excesses by Jonathan Eyal, Global Affairs Correspondent

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while in his own country’s consulate in Turkey. The history of countries enjoying diplomatic immunity for their officials and buildings dates back centuries – although such immunity is also often flouted.


The murder – or just “death”, depending on whose version you choose to believe – of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside his own country’s consulate in Turkey has put a spotlight yet again on one of the thorniest areas of international law: the immunity which diplomats and their buildings enjoy under international law.

For the Khashoggi case, although by far the most unusual and gruesome in many years, is hardly unique. And the question of what states can or cannot do within the compounds of their embassies in other countries is constantly alive: Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website which specialised in publishing secret documents of other countries, has avoided British justice through the simple expedient of living in the Embassy of Ecuador in London for the past six years.


Jonathan Eyal

Jonathan Eyal was born in Romania, but has lived most of his life in Britain. Educated at Oxford and London universities, his initial training was in international law and relations, in which he obtained both his first degree and his Master’s with a Distinction. His doctorate, completed at Oxford in 1987, analysed relations between ethnic minorities in Eastern Europe. After teaching at Oxford for three years, Dr Eyal was appointed a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies in London. Since 1990, Dr Eyal has been Director of Studies at the Institute. Dr Eyal has authored books on military relations in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and became a regular commentator for The Guardian newspaper in London. He started writing for The Straits Times in 2001, and is currently the paper’s Europe Correspondent. He is fluent in French, Romanian, Italian, Hungarian and German.
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