Ashneel Singh Case Versus The South African Diplomat, Theodorus Mostert

The relatives of Ashneel  Singh have every reason to be aggrieved about the injustice over his tragic death involving a South African diplomat. Mr Singh and his fiancé were driving
18 Jan 2016 10:30
Ashneel Singh Case Versus The South African Diplomat, Theodorus Mostert
GONE... Theodorus Mostert (standing right), is the South African diplomat who left the country soon after the incident on October 2, 2015.

The relatives of Ashneel  Singh have every reason to be aggrieved about the injustice over his tragic death involving a South African diplomat.

Mr Singh and his fiancé were driving happily on a Friday on Edinburgh Drive in Suva on their way to a late night movie when they were hit by car driven by a drunk diplomat, Theodorus Mostert.

Mr Singh died as a result but fortunately, his fiancé, Janice Jyotika Prasad, a radio announcer, survived.

When Mr Mostert was breathalysed he was allegedly found to be more than three times over the legal alcohol limit, the Sunday Times News in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported.

He was taken to the Totogo Police Station in Suva. But former Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald, also a South African, personally went to Totogo and intervened. Someone had obviously contacted him and that was why he was there.

He told the Fiji Sun that he was there personally at the station to remind the Police that Mr Mostert could not be investigated  because his rights under the diplomatic immunity are inviolable. Mr Mostert avoided arrest and returned in haste to Pretoria.

What should have happened was that the Police should have been allowed to go through the full processes of the law before the diplomatic immunity provisions are applied.If Pretoria had decided to waive the immunity then, Mr Mostert would have been charged and tried here. It could still do that. If it happened, he could face trial there or sent here.

But reports from South Africa say that this is unlikely to happen.

The spotlight is on Pretoria to do the right thing. This is not the only case pending. There is a closely similar case involving a South African diplomat  in Oslo, Norway. Booysen Dombo, the first secretary, apparently crashed his car into another car in the capital city, reported the Sunday Times News of Johannesburg.

It is alleged he was under the influence of alcohol but he refused to be breathalysed. He was taken to hospital with a broken leg.

The driver of the other car, a paramedic, suffered a broken hip. Mr Dombo is back in South Africa and it is understood that the Department of International Relations is considering disciplinary action.

In both cases the department was asked by both Fiji and Norway to waive the diplomatic immunity. Their requests were turned down.

In the interest of international justice and fairness, South Africa must reconsider its decision. Infact it should not hide behind the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 but capitulate  and show that it respects the laws of a sovereign nation.

Diplomats have enjoyed a special status to facilitate their work. They enjoy special privileges that protect them from coercion and subjugation by the host nations.

Article 29 of the Convention states that diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention.

They are immune from civil or criminal prosecution, though the sending country may waive this right under Article 32.

I think this provision was added to avoid politically-motivated civil or criminal prosecution.

But in both cases in question here there is no evidence that they are politically motivated. Simply, these are cases of two diplomats who broke the law of the respective countries.

If the role was reversed, it would be interesting to see how South Africa reacted. I am sure it would follow the same line of action that Oslo and Suva are taking.

If Mr Dombo and Mr Mostert escape any form of punishment, Pretoria is telling the world that it does not recognise and uphold the law.

Mr Singh died and a citizen of Norway suffered a broken hip as a result of their reckless driving.

Diplomats cannot be seen to be above the law particularly when they are accused of committing a serious crime.

There is a potential here for a class action by Fiji and Norway, challenging the interpretation of the treaty before the International Court of Justice.

Under a protocol attached to the treaty, disputes arising from the interpretation of this treaty, may be brought before the International Court of Justice. This issue hinges on whether Fiji, South Africa and Norway have ratified this protocol.

To avoid all this hassle, South Africa should do the honourable thing: Waive the immunity and allow for prosecution to go ahead or lose the respect and confidence of the international community.


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