The death of Harry Dunn, an English teenager who was killed on August 27 2019, sparked a “bitter diplomatic row” between Great Britain and the United States. At the center of this row is the concept of “diplomatic immunity.”
While riding his motorcycle, Dunn was killed in a head on collision with an SUV near RAF Croughton, a military base used by the U.S. Air Force. British police identified the driver as Anne Sacoolas — the wife of an American diplomat — and said that she was driving “on the wrong side of the road” when the collision occurred.
A diplomatic row exploded when, after “British prosecutors charged her with causing death by dangerous driving,” Sacoolas fled the country, returning to the United States citing “diplomatic immunity.” Despite multiple efforts by both Dunn’s parents and the British government, Sacoolas has remained in the United States, thereby continuing to evade calls for justice. Most recently, Dunn’s parents lost their “High Court battle against the Foreign Office whether their son’s alleged killer had diplomatic immunity.”
Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, vowed to continue, saying “I promised my boy I would get him justice and that is just what we are going to do. No-one is going to stand in our way.”
And no one, and nothing, should stand in their way.
Much of the debate surrounding this case rests on whether Sacoolas was indeed subject to diplomatic immunity. However, is this not entirely the wrong question to be asking? Under what possible moral system can the alleged wrongful death of a citizen be ignored based on the status of the accused? It’s harder to think of a more abhorrent example of inequality than the value of a person’s life being determined and judged by the position of the person who is accused of ending it.
According to the United States Department of State, diplomatic immunity is defined as “a principle of international law by which certain foreign government officials are not subject to the jurisdiction of local courts and other authorities for both their official and, to a large extent, their personal activities.”
According to Scott Anderson, an international law expert at the Brookings Institution, “immunity is considered a cornerstone of diplomacy and is intended to protect diplomats and their families in hostile environments or from harassment in host countries.”
One must then ask whether the United Kingdom represents a “hostile environment,” or whether accusations of “causing death by dangerous driving” amount to “harassment.” Moreover, while some protections for diplomats on an international level must be provided in order to prevent their unjust detention or prosecution, the idea that this should cover blatant abuses of laws which exist throughout the world’s civilized societies is, frankly, absurd.
If the goal of diplomatic immunity is to further diplomacy, then we must question whether Harry Dunn’s death — and, more specifically, the lack of closure and justice provided in Dunn’s memory for his family and friends — achieves anything like an improvement of diplomacy.
Harry Dunn was a citizen of the United Kingdom, and the idea that his death can be met with a judicial shrug is unconscionable. More importantly, Harry Dunn is a human being with inalienable rights. Rights which, if accusations are true, Sacoolas took from him. One of the fundamental pillars of our civilization is the equality of human value across all of society, and that we must all take responsibility for our actions and our mistakes. Such basic human values should supersede the ridiculously literal “Get Out Of Jail Free” card handed out to diplomats and their families which has allowed Sacoolas to — according to British police — drive down the wrong side of the street, leading to the death of a teenager, and be spared of facing justice.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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