Diplomatic immunity

The staff of Foreign Embassies who represent their country are diplomats. Some are ambassadors, consuls or high commissioners. Diplomats are usually in New Zealand for a limited number of years before their country moves them to another country. Their job is to look after people from their own country who are living in New Zealand, to help with trade between their country and New Zealand, and to work towards friendly relations between their country and New Zealand.

These people have diplomatic immunity. Immunity means protection. Diplomatic immunity means that if the host country, like New Zealand, thinks any diplomats have committed a crime, they cannot be tried and imprisoned in the host country. New Zealand diplomats in foreign countries also have diplomatic immunity and this can be very important for their safety in some dangerous countries.

One staff member from the Malaysian High Commission is accused of burglary and a sexual attack on a 21-year old woman in Wellington in early May.

The Malaysian Foreign Minister said that Malaysia was willing for the man to stand trial in New Zealand but the New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs suggested that it was better to use diplomatic immunity and send him home. He is now in Malaysia where he may be tried by a court there. The New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, now says there may have been a misunderstanding because the man should be tried in a New Zealand court.


  • immunity – protection from arrest (compare immunisation – protection from disease, June 30 Measles in the North Island)
  • host – opposite is guest, visitor
  • was willing – agreed to it (opposite: refused to do it)
  • to stand trial – go to court
  • misunderstanding – one side did not understand what the other side said

One Comments

  1. Last night, the Malaysian High Commission announced that the diplomat will return to NZ to face charges i.e. stand trial in NZ if the police think there is enough evidence.

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