Diplomatic immunity doesn't permit killing someone, observes IHC

IHC Justice Aamer Farooq directs committee to settle matter of placing US diplomat on ECL in five days

Mona Khan

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) observed on Wednesday that diplomatic immunity does not permit killing someone. 

Justice Aamer Farooq gave the remarks while hearing a petition seeking the placement of a US diplomat who fatally ran over a young man in Islamabad earlier this month on the Exit Control List (ECL).

On April 7, the vehicle of US Defence and Air Attache Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall ran a red light and rammed into a motorcycle killing Ateeq Baig on the spot and injuring his cousin. 

The diplomat was let go by police after registration of a case after the Foreign Office (FO) said he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. 

During Wednesday's hearing of a plea filed by the victim's family, the judge came down hard on the Islamabad Police for going soft on the diplomat. 

The judge remarked that an alcohol test is the first thing to do in hit-and-run cases but the police, in this case, failed to follow procedure probably since they "trembled seeing a foreigner". 

"When a Pakistani is involved in an accident, the police gets inside the vehicle [before anything else] to smell alcohol," the judge remarked. 

Kohsar SHO Khalid Awan submitted the diplomat’s statement in court, after which the judge observed that the statement was not recorded in English, which could serve as a loophole for the diplomat to contest that the statement was recorded in Urdu; a language that he does not speak. 

In response to another question, the SHO responded that the statement was recorded while the diplomat was inside his vehicle at the police station.

Justice Farooq then observed that the police itself damaged the case by not conducting an alcohol test. 

When asked, SHO Awan informed the court that he was called by the Foreign Office (FO) to let the diplomat go. He added that the FO has been sent details of the case to assist police according to the Vienna Convention.

The judge observed that diplomatic immunity should be sought but going through the wheels of justice is also necessary.

With regards to the placement of the diplomat on ECL, the court ruled that the committee formed over the issue should decide the matter in five days. 

During the hearing, the deputy attorney general informed the court that commissioner office has sent a request the ministry to place name on ECL, to which the court ordered the Interior Ministry to categorically respond to the plea.

The hearing was then adjourned until Tuesday. 

Col Joseph was driving negligently: police report

According to a police report, Colonel Joseph was driving negligently, adding that none of the witnesses said that the US Embassy official was intoxicated.

The plea to reopen the police investigation into the case was then adjourned until April 21.