Reforming the Laws and Practice of Diplomatic Immunity

As a result of public criticism and increasingly strained relations between diplomatic communities and local communities, Congress recently enacted legislation that dramatically changes United States diplomatic immunity law. This legislation eliminates the complete immunity from criminal and civil law proceedings that was afforded most foreign diplomats and their staffs, and establishes the rules of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as the measure of diplomatic immunity in the United States. This article will examine the theoretical justification for diplomatic immunity and its application in the United States. The manner in which the recently enacted legislation alters United States diplomatic immunity law, as well as the reasoning and possible impact of such law reform, also will be discussed.