File picture: Wolfgang Rattay
File picture: Wolfgang Rattay

Norway asks SA to waive diplomat’s immunity

By Peter Fabricius Time of article published Jan 6, 2016

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Johannesburg – The South African government has received an official request from the Norwegian government to waive the diplomatic immunity of one of its diplomats so he can be questioned and possibly prosecuted for allegedly causing a car crash in Oslo.

The unnamed diplomat, aged about 50, was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol shortly after midnight on Sunday when he crashed into another car, seriously injuring a 29-year-old female paramedic.

Oslo police told local media they were about to stop the South African diplomat’s car because of the way he was driving, when he suddenly sped off and later crashed into the paramedic’s car.

A police spokesperson said the driver seemed drunk but that embassy officials who arrived at the crash would not allow the police to take a breathalyser test, citing diplomatic immunity.

Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson Hilde Steinfeld told ANA this week that a ministry official had summoned South African ambassador Queen Anne Zondo on Monday and formally delivered a request for the South African government to waive the official’s diplomatic immunity so he could be questioned and the case be settled legally in Norway.

Earlier another ministry spokesperson, Ane Lunde, was quoted by Oslo’s Aftenposten newspaper as saying: “We are looking very seriously at this event. Foreign diplomats are obliged to follow Norwegian law, even if they have diplomatic immunity. Driving while intoxicated is a very serious offence.”

Nelson Kgwete, spokesperson for the South African department of international relations and cooperation, said on Wednesday that the request for the waiver of diplomatic immunity had now been conveyed to the department in Pretoria.

It was being considered by the department’s legal experts before the government gave its response to Oslo.

Kgwete confirmed that Norway had requested a waiver of diplomatic immunity, not only for the diplomat to be questioned, but also for Norway to be able to “take the process further”.

It is not clear however, if the diplomat could be tried in Norway. Diplomatic commentator and former South African ambassador Tom Wheeler said he did not think the diplomat would be tried in Norway. It was more likely that he would be recalled to South Africa and punished locally, possibly by removing him from the diplomatic service.

The Norwegian paramedic who was injured has not been named. Steinfeld said she had been “quite seriously injured” in the accident and Aftenposten reported that she had broken her hip and also suffered internal injuries.

An official at Ullevål University Hospital where she was taken for treatment was unable to give her medical condition.

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