The British Foreign Office has demanded an urgent explanation after a British diplomatic bag was reportedly opened and searched by Spanish Guardia Civil officers
on the border with Gibraltar.
The incident, which took place on Friday according to the Gibraltar Chronicle
, has been described by a Foreign Office spokesman as a “serious infringement
” of international diplomatic protocols. It is understood the bag was leaving Gibraltar but no other details have been released.
Diplomatic bags, which are used to carry documents and other items, between governments and their diplomatic missions abroad are protected by Article 27 of the 1961 Vienna Convention
which asserts that diplomatic bags have immunity from search or seizure.
A Foreign Office spokesman said
: “As far as we are concerned there is no justification for this infringement of the UK’s rights under the Vienna Convention. Official correspondence and diplomatic bags are inviolable.
“This was a serious infringement of the principles of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. There are long-established and internationally-accepted articles concerning official correspondence and the diplomatic bag to which the FCO adheres. We expect other parties to the Convention, including EU and Nato allies, to do the same.
Spain has denied that its officers had opened any diplomatic bag. Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, the country’s foreign minister has played down the incident and insisted the bags, which had been dispatched by the Office of the Governor of Gibraltar, “were not technically diplomatic bags
”. Quoted by the Daily Telegraph, he said
: “As such there is neither a diplomatic bag nor an incident. If it is not a diplomatic bag, there is no diplomatic incident. A mailbag was opened, which is not a diplomatic bag in accordance with article 27 of the Vienna Convention.
UKIP MEP William, the Earl of Dartmouth
, has demanded firm action from the Government
: “this is a disgraceful and provocative act that must be roundly condemned by anybody who believes in the rule of law and proper international diplomatic practice. It is clear to me that the failure of the European Union to take this issue seriously when the reported on the border problems between Spain and Gibraltar a few weeks ago has obviously be regarded by the Spanish Authorities as a green light for further misbehaviour.
“The British Government need to act, and act fast with all diplomatic means at their disposal to ensure that such appalling behaviour is not repeated. The last time a British diplomatic bag was opened in this way was by Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, is that really the company Madrid wishes to keep?”
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