A diplomat who escaped prosecution for sexual assault in
New Zealand is likely to face serious charges in his home
country, Prime Minister John Key says.
The Government last night hauled in the relevant country's
head of mission to make its views clear that the diplomat,
who cannot be named, should be held to account.
It was revealed yesterday that the man, aged in his 30s, fled
the country a day after being charged with burglary and
assault with intent to rape by Wellington police.
He had followed a 21-year-old woman to her home in Brooklyn
on May 9, when the alleged assault occurred.
Mr Key said the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had formally
asked for the diplomat's home country to waive diplomatic
immunity, but it had declined.
"New Zealand's very strong preference was that he would have
been charged. Effectively that sending country stopped us
from doing that," he told reporters.
Under the Vienna Convention, diplomats could claim immunity
to avoid arrest and detention.
The Government made a show of hauling in the diplomat's head
of mission to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last night "to
make it clear how seriously it views this situation".
But the ability for the Government to publicly sanction the
country was limited because the Wellington District Court
made an order to suppress the diplomat's identity and other
The Herald is challenging the court suppression order.
Mr Key said that as a signatory to the Vienna Convention,
"our hands are effectively tied". But he expected the man's
home country to investigate the charges.
The Government had been advised that the diplomat could still
be charged for a crime committed in New Zealand, and that the
offence was taken as seriously in that country.
Mr Key would not say what action could be taken if the
investigation did not hold the diplomat to account.
He was also asked why the case was not made public sooner,
and if the head of mission would have been called in if the
Herald on Sunday had not publicised it.
He said a series of meetings had taken place at a senior
level over the past month, and the home country was aware of
New Zealand's expectations.
Green Party foreign affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham said the
convention's rules on diplomatic immunity were not fit for
the 21st century.
Police said the charges remained active and a warrant had
been issued for the diplomat's arrest.
Foreign diplomats in New Zealand have claimed immunity a
number of times:
* 2000: Mario Fierro, the partner of an Australia diplomat,
was found guilty of assault after he stabbed a man in a
Wellington restaurant. Immunity was waived by the Australian
* 1997: Former Colombian Ambassador Hernando Harjuch was
alleged to have sexually assaulted an 18-year-old Lower Hutt
woman while she was attending a local cinema. He had
diplomatic immunity and was not prosecuted, though he later
resigned from his position.
* 1984: Chilean Ambassador Luis Lopez crashed his car after
drinking, killing 20-year-old Sacha Macfarlane. He claimed
diplomatic immunity and was not prosecuted. Chile apologised
for the incident in 2010.
- Isaac Davison of NZ Herald