PETALING JAYA: Diplomatic immunity still applies to the North Korean diplomat being sought in connection with the murder of Kim Jong-nam, despite the use of a deadly nerve agent.
UKM Assoc Prof Dr Haniff Ahamat said the revelation by police that the VX nerve agent was used to kill Jong-nam “will not negate diplomatic immunity”.
He said Malaysia is bound by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which means that North Korea’s Second Secretary Hyon Kwang-song enjoyed immunity from any form of criminal action.
“In fact, he will not only be immune from criminal court jurisdiction but also enjoy inviolability.
“That means we cannot violate his person, property or even cars,” he said yesterday.
Dr Haniff, who specialises in conflict processes, law and courts, and international relations, said the use of VX nerve agent was a separate issue.
“We can say that they (North Korea) have violated international law but the law on immunity is separate and independent of this,” he said.
He said there had been unsuccessful attempts by several countries to negate diplomatic immunity for international crimes after rulings by the International Court of Justice, citing the British case of Chilean Gen Augusto Pinochet and the French case of senior Rwandan official Rose Kabuye as examples where attempts to negate diplomatic immunity for international crimes such as torture failed.
“The general principles still tilt in favour of immunity,” he added.
Dr Haniff, however, said there may be instances where a country could “disrespect” international law.
“It is not domestic law and there is no hard and fast rule where a particular country can be brought to justice for violating international law,” Dr Haniff said.
He felt Malaysia would not resort to such a move as the country had a record of abiding by international law.
“If we do it, there will be consequences to the country and we will end up looking like the bad guy,” he said.
Criminal lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad echoed the view, saying the use of VX did not change anything in relation to diplomatic immunity.
He said the only way a diplomatic official could be subjected to local criminal jurisdiction is when immunity is waived.
“The only way we can subject him to local criminal law is North Korea voluntarily revoking his immunity,” he added.
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