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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: Diplomatic Law (LAWS11319)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course deals with one of the oldest branches of international law: the law relating to representatives of States (which in the more recent past was expanded to cover representatives of international organisations and of sub-national entities as well). The course will deal with privileges and immunities, but also with questions relating to duties and functions. It will address the law as it applies to permanent diplomats and ad hoc diplomats, but also consular agents.
Course description Seminar One: Introduction
This seminar will introduce students to the structure and objectives of the course, and clarify the arrangements for teaching and assessment. It will also provide a brief overview of the history of diplomatic law (in particular, its codification) and present the theoretical framework in particular of diplomatic immunities. There will also be an introduction to the main sources of diplomatic law and to models on the resolution of conflicts between sources.

Seminar Two: Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities, Part One (Property Immunities)
This session will deal with immunities which are necessary for the operation of diplomatic missions, but also with the impact that the granting of diplomatic immunities and privileges has on the jurisdiction of the receiving State. Particular emphasis will be placed on the property immunities that are enshrined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, especially the inviolability of mission premises and archives, but also freedom of communication and correspondence.

Seminar Three: Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities, Part Two (Personal Immunities)
This session deals with the personal immunities which the Vienna Convention provides in view of civil, criminal and administrative jurisdiction. The session will also tackle questions relating to the beginning of immunities and their cessation. The seminar will explore the various categories of beneficiaries which diplomatic law recognises: members of diplomatic staff, administrative and technical staff, service staff, private servants, and the family members that might accompany them. The seminar will additionally deal with the freedom of movement and the maxim ne impediatur legatio.

Seminar Four: Duties of the Diplomatic Agent
This session deals with the obligations which international law imposes upon diplomatic agents. It highlights the duties contained in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations: in particular, the duty to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State, but also the duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of the latter. The seminar analyses the rationale of these obligations and investigates the relationship between duties and functions.

Seminar Five: Diplomatic Asylum
This session deals with the problem of diplomatic asylum in international law. It will discuss the question whether a right to asylum exists (or whether the receiving State might indeed insist on a right not to grant asylum) - both with regard to the regulation of this concept in general international law and in regional law (in particular, in the Latin American region). The question of territorial asylum and differences to diplomatic asylum will likewise be discussed as will the regulation (or lack thereof) of diplomatic asylum in international instruments.

Seminar Six: The Diplomatic Bag and the Diplomatic Courier
The regulation of the inviolability of the diplomatic bag does not appear to allow for any exceptions: diplomatic bags must not be 'opened or detained' (unlike consular bags whose opening may, under certain circumstances, be requested and which may be sent back to their places of origin, if the request is refused). This seminar will deal with the way in which the relevant norm has been interpreted in international law and the problems that arise from such an absolute provision. It will also deal with the office of the diplomatic courier and the 1989 Draft Articles on the Status of the Diplomatic Courier and the Diplomatic Bag Not Accompanied by Diplomatic Courier.

Seminar Seven: Consular Law, Part One
This session deals with the development and scope of consular functions, particularly in light of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. It reflects on the role of consuls and focuses also on a particular aspect of consular work: contact with nationals of the sending State who have been arrested by authorities of the receiving State.

Seminar Eight: Consular Law, Part Two
This seminar will deal with consular immunities. It reflects on the bases of these immunities and their temporal aspects, but also explores consular personal and property immunities and discusses the differences between consular immunities those given to diplomatic agents. It also deals with the specific issue of honorary consuls.

Seminar Nine: Special Missions and Representatives to International Organisations. "Paradiplomacy" and Diplomatic Relations by Unrecognised Entities.
This seminar deals with diplomats outside the field of permanent diplomatic relations. It examines the Convention on Special Missions ("the 1969 Convention") and the Convention on the Representation of States in their Relations with International Organisations of a Universal Character ("the 1975 Convention", not yet in force), their purposes, the agents which they affect, but also the question why so few States have been willing to ratify the relevant instruments.
The seminar also deals with diplomatic relations by sub-national governments (Scotland, Québec etc) and the questions that such relations invite (including the immunities which may or may not be available to agents of sub-State entities). It also discusses the role of representatives sent by an entity which claims Statehood, but which might not be recognised as a State by the receiving State (eg Taiwan and Palestine). This seminar will investigate their position and the way in which members of the international community have addressed these issues.

Seminar Ten: Current Issues in Diplomatic Relations
The final seminar will look at selected issues in diplomatic relations which are at the forefront of public debate. In 2013 for instance, the case of Julian Assange who had been granted asylum in the embassy of Ecuador in London, would be an obvious candidate, as would be the conduct of diplomatic relations by new actors on the international scene (South Sudan, Palestine etc). Interesting issues relating to diplomatic immunity include the status of diplomats whose countries are involved in situations of civil war (Syria, previously Libya) and the claimed immunity of persons who are involved in diplomacy in the wider sense of the term, but outside the field of permanent relations (eg Strauss-Kahn). It is expected that this seminar will give students the opportunity to apply the expertise which they have gained throughout the course and to offer a critical debate of the relevant topical issues.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. accurately assess and critically comment upon the concept and elements of diplomatic law and consular law and their interplay with other norms of international law, eg Human Rights.
  2. identify and critically appraise the role played by consuls and diplomats in international affairs.
  3. critically evaluate the main theories relating to consular and diplomatic immunity
  4. demonstrate an appropriate level of research skills in locating and evaluating instruments on diplomatic and consular law, academic opinion and sources on the factual background of these areas.
  5. solve problems utilising the knowledge gained from the various seminars and work effectively as part of a group towards this end.
Reading List
There is no single text which covers the whole breadth of the course. However, reference will frequently be made to the following key texts:

Eileen Denza, Diplomatic Law: Commentary on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 4th ed (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Lee / Quigley, Consular Law and Practice, Oxford 2008

Roberts, Ivor, Satow's Diplomatic Practice, 6th ed (Oxford 2009)

As new editions of these texts become available, requests will be made to the library to acquire these.

Additional reading lists will be published for the individual seminars. They will mainly contain articles which are available on Westlaw International or Hein Online, to which Edinburgh University has access.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course will develop students' abilities in handling the relevant sources and materials of diplomatic and consular law. Students should acquire evaluative skills which will be developed through practice of analysing academic opinion and materials in these fields and assessing their value, and participating in group seminar discussion. Students will also be able to acquire problem-solving techniques on issues in the areas studied.

Oral communication is developed in particular through the use of presentations delivered by students as part of their assessments, research skills are developed through the research paper and through work for each seminar.
Special Arrangements n/a
Study Abroad n/a
KeywordsDiplomacy,International Law,Consuls,Diplomats,Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,Vienna
Course organiserDr Paul Behrens
Course secretaryMr David Morris
Tel: (0131 6)50 2010
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