Belgian envoy’s wife slaps shopkeeper in Seoul, then claims diplomatic immunity. What does the law say?

  • The use of diplomatic immunity has come under scrutiny in other countries, especially after the wife of an American envoy was able to escape the UK following her alleged involvement in a road accident that killed a British teenager.
The screengrab of security footage that showed Xiang Xueqiu pushing one of the staff members before slapping her across the face.
The screengrab of security footage that showed Xiang Xueqiu pushing one of the staff members before slapping her across the face.
Published on May 18, 2021 06:31 PM IST
Copy Link
By | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The wife of Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea, who allegedly hit two staff members at a boutique store in Seoul last month, has now invoked diplomatic immunity to avoid criminal charges, police said Tuesday. According to local media reports, a store employee had mistaken Xiang Xueqiu, wife of Ambassador Peter Lescouhier, for a shoplifter and tried to look inside the jacket she was wearing.

The security camera footage shared widely online showed Xiang Xueqiu, wife of Ambassador Peter Lescouhier, pushing one of the staff members before slapping her across the face. Lescouhier had previously apologised in an Instagram video, saying her wife “might have had her reasons to be angry at the way she was treated in that shop, but committing physical violence is totally unacceptable."

Apologising for her wife’s action, the Belgian envoy said that “[s]he sincerely regrets it and she wants to offer her apologies in person to the shopkeeper when she gets the opportunity to do so." Xiang was hospitalised following the incident but, the ambassador said, was discharged as her “medical condition [was] stabilising”.

“Out of respect for the privacy of all persons involved and in the interest of the investigation, I myself and the staff of my embassy will abstain from any further comments on this case,” he added.

The incident sparked outrage in South Korea as thousands of people signed petitions on the presidential website calling to expel the ambassador’s wife from the country. While South Korea’s foreign ministry assured that it has been “seriously handling” unlawful behaviour by foreign diplomats, Seoul Metropolitan Police said in a statement that Xiang had exercised her diplomatic immunity and, therefore, will formally drop the case soon.

What does the law say?

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, of which South Korea is a signatory, family members of diplomats living in foreign countries enjoy immunity from arrest in most of the cases. However, the immunity can be voluntarily waived by the sending state and it must always be “express”.

“Waiver of immunity from jurisdiction in respect of civil or administrative proceedings shall not be held to imply the waiver of immunity in respect of the execution of the judgement, for which a separate waiver shall be necessary,” reads Article 36(4) of the Vienna Convention.

The use of diplomatic immunity has come under scrutiny in other countries, especially after Anne Sacoolas, wife of an American ambassador, fled the United Kingdom using diplomatic immunity following her alleged involvement in a fatal road accident that killed a British teenager, Harry Dunn. The parents of Harry Dunn launched a court case, which they eventually lost in November 2020, to argue that Britain’s Foreign Office wrongly decided Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • People rally in support of abortion rights Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    Texas clinics halt abortions after state high court ruling

    The Friday night ruling stopped a three-day-old order by a Houston judge who said clinics could resume abortions up to six weeks into pregnancy. The following day, the American Civil Liberties Union said it doubted that any abortions were now being provided in a state of nearly 30 million people.

  • Other places from which Google will not store location data include fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, and weight loss clinics.

    Google to delete user location history on US abortion clinic visits

    "If our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit," Jen Fitzpatrick, a senior vice president at Google, wrote in a blog post. "This change will take effect in the coming weeks."

  • Professor Ajay Agrawal, who was honoured with the Order of Canada in the 2022 list. (Credit: University of Toronto)

    Two Indo-Canadian academics honoured with Order of Canada

    Two Indo-Canadian academics, working on research to advance the betterment of mankind, have been honoured with one of the country's most prestigious awards, the Order of Canada. Their names were in the list published by the office of the governor-general of Canada Mary Simon. Both have been invested (as the bestowal of the awards is described) into the Order as a Member. They are professors Ajay Agrawal and Parminder Raina.

  • SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk.

    Elon Musk's Twitter hiatus, in 2nd week now,  generates curiosity 

    The world's richest person, Elon Musk, has not tweeted in about 10 days and it can't go unnoticed. The 51-year-old business tycoon has 100 million followers on the microblogging site, which he is planning to buy. Since April, he has been making headlines for the $44 billion deal and his comments and concerns about the presence of a large number of fake accounts on Twitter.

  • A Taliban fighter stands guard at a news conference about a new command of hijab by Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

    Taliban's reclusive supreme leader attends gathering in Kabul: Report

    The Taliban's reclusive supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada joined a large gathering of nationwide religious leaders in Kabul on Friday, the state news agency said, adding he would give a speech. The Taliban's state-run Bakhtar News Agency confirmed the reclusive leader, who is based in the southern city of Kandahar, was attending the meeting of more than 3,000 male participants from around the country, aimed at discussing issues of national unity.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, July 03, 2022