Amid reports of a protestor driving a truck through the closed gates of the Russian Embassy in Dublin, the Embassy has released a statement alleging that the action is in violation of Article 22 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. I question whether this is indeed a breach of the convention, or are the alleged actions of the protester simply criminal damage.

The Vienna Convention is an international treaty that sets the framework for diplomatic missions or embassies between states. Article 22 provides for the inviolability of a diplomatic mission. It is the article that often leads to the (untrue) belief that walking into an embassy is actually stepping into foreign territory.

Article 22 does prevent ‘agents’ of the host state from entering without permission of the ambassador. It makes the embassy immune from search and is the provision which allowed Julian Assange to avoid extradition from the UK by staying within the confines of Ecuador’s diplomatic mission.

In today’s case, the person allegedly breaching the entrance to Russia’s embassy has described himself as a ‘working man’ from Leitrim, and was driving a truck loaded with ecclesiastical supplies. He appears to be a protestor acting in his individual capacity. There is no evidence to suggest that he is an agent of the Irish state. This means that his actions are not a breach of Article 22 of the Vienna Convention.

Article 22 does provide an obligation on the host state to take all appropriate steps to protect a diplomatic mission from intrusion or damage. The reports say that the driver of the truck was arrested. Unless the Gardai had prior knowledge of an intended breach of the gates of the Embassy and could have reasonably prevented it, then it would appear the Irish state has taken appropriate action, and can demonstrate it has acted within the confines of Article 22 of the Convention, despite allegations otherwise.

The above is provided for information purposes and is not intended as legal advice. If you have questions about any aspect of public international law we, at Fitzsimons Redmond LLP, would be happy to advise you. Please contact us on 01-676 3257.

By Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty

Partner at Fitzsimons Redmond LLP