Washington invoked immunity for NZ's United States diplomat

20 March, 2017, 05:43 | Author: Eloise Marshall
  • Washington invoked immunity for NZ's United States diplomat

A USA diplomat has been expelled from New Zealand after Washington refused to waive diplomatic immunity so police investigating a serious crime could question him, officials said.

Police said Saturday they responded to an incident in Lower Hutt near Wellington early on March 12.

The attache, identified in local media as Colin White, is believe to have been kicked out of the country after police asked to question him regarding an incident that left him with a broken nose and a black eye.

When that was refused yesterday, the ministry requested the man be removed from New Zealand. This after the embassy refused to waive his immunity during a police investigation.

Mr McCully went on: "Whether or not to request a waiver of immunity is a decision that rests with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs [Brook Barrington]".

The foreign ministry defines a serious crime as one that carries a prison term of a year or more.

"The United States Government has today declined to waive the diplomat's immunity", the spokesman said yesterday.

MFAT was asked by police on Monday to request a waiver of immunity from the United States to enable police to undertake investigations, and did so that day.

"This involved an individual from the US Embassy in Wellington", she said.

TVNZ, which broke the story, reported that White was a technical attaché who had been working closely with New Zealand's intelligence service, the GCSB.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully called the decision "disappointing" in a written statement.

The U.S. Embassy in Wellington is without a permanent ambassador after Mark Gilbert, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, was recalled in January by the administration of President Donald Trump.

"We take seriously any suggestion that our staff have fallen short of the high standards of conduct expected of USA government personnel".

Mr McCully said, "I note that the USA has said all allegations are always fully investigated".

The foreign ministry said it makes clear that it expected all "foreign diplomats to abide by New Zealand law" and that they should suspend immunity should law enforcement request it in relation to allegations of serious crimes.

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