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Diplomatic Asylum in Latin American Practice

  • C. Neale Ronning

Abstract

A singular feature of most asylum cases in Latin America is the fact that the controversy seldom centers around the question whether or not the state of refuge, in granting protection to persons pursued for political offences, is exercising a right which the territorial state is legally bound to respect. This study has already indicated that, in a great many cases, political expediency and lack of concern on the part of the territorial state seem to be the primary considerations and there is no evidence that legal issues were ever discussed.

Keywords

Foreign Affair Foreign Relation Territorial State Safe Conduct Political Refugee 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  131. 1.
    Ibid. It is difficult to see how any other interpretation could be given to the article. A literal translation of the article as approved, without changes in punctuation or in sentence construction would read: “Everyone has the right to seek and receive asylum on foreign territory, in case of pursuit which is not motivated by common crimes and in accord with the legislation of each country and with international conventions.” The official translation is equally clear: “Every person has the right in case of pursuit not resulting from ordinary crimes, to seek and receive asylum in foreign territory, in accordance with the laws of each country and with international agreements.” International Conference of American States, Ninth, Report of the Delegation of the United States with Related Documents ([Washington, 1948]), p. 246.Google Scholar
  132. 2.
    Organization of American States, Council, Decisions Taken at Meetings of the Council of the Organization of American States, IV (Washington: Pan American Union, 1952), p. 26.Google Scholar
  133. 3.
    Organization of American States, Council, Regulations of the Council of the Organization of American States (Washington: Pan American Union, 1953), p. 7. But on the legal force of resolutions, C. G. Fenwick, “The Tenth Inter-American Conference: Some Issues of Inter-American Regional Law,” A.J.I.L., 48 (1954), p. 464, commented: “Lawyers may quarrel over the relative legal force of resolutions and treaties; but as a matter of fact the existing practice shows due respect for resolutions antecedent to the adoption of the Charter, treating them as if they had the full force of law.” To say, however,that states such as Nicaragua, Venezuela, Paraguay or the Dominican Republic felt legally bound by all the provisions in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man would seem absurd. As to the resolutions of the Council, they are certainly not comparable to the resolutions of the International Conferences of American States. In “The Law of the Organization of American States,” op. cit., pp.259-260, Fenwick observes: “My own personal opinion is that the resolutions and declarations of conferences and consultative meetings do have juridical value, do create legal obligations for the parties to them. But it should be noted that they are as a rule phrased in very general terms, making it possible for the parties to qualify or limit or even evade the obligations in case it should be found to be too burdensome or difficult to carry out.” This seems particularly applicable here.Google Scholar
  134. 1.
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  135. 2.
    Op. cit., p. 276.Google Scholar
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    Perú, Proceso, p. 154. (My translation.)Google Scholar
  137. 4.
    Op. cit., p. 18.Google Scholar
  138. 5.
    Op. cit., pp. 274-275.Google Scholar
  139. 1.
    The material available on the granting of asylum on public vessels is considerably less than that on diplomatic and consular asylum. In the first place the number of cases is considerably smaller. The reason offered in chap. VII in explanation of the smaller number of cases of consular asylum as compared with diplomatic asylum would also be applicable here. In addition to this, a vessel can leave territorial waters, the territorial state is presented with a fait accompli and the diplomatic exchanges which would normally present the position of the parties to the controversy are probably regarded as useless. In any event they seldom appear in the published diplomatic papers in Latin America. Thus there are very few statements clearly setting forth a government’s views, either on a particular case or on the general principles regulating the practice. Such evidence as is available clearly suggests that asylum on public ships is regarded as being subject to the same rules as are applied in the case of diplomatic asylum. The reader will note that all of the multilateral treaties on asylum signed by American states treat asylum on warships in exactly the same way that they treat asylum in embassies and legations: supra, chapter IV. Instructions to commanders of public vessels of the United States show that our policy has been virtually the same as that regarding diplomatic asylum. “…While the rule governing such cases is that it is the duty of American men-of-war to protect American citizens, it is, as a general rule, against the policy of this Government to grant asylum in its ships to citizens of foreign countries engaged in political activity, especially when such asylum is for the purpose of furthering their political plans. Temporary shelter to such persons, when they are seeking to leave their country, has sometimes been conceded on grounds of humanity, but even this is done with great circumspection lest advantage be taken of it to further the political fortunes of individuals with the result of involving us in the domestic politics of foreign countries.” Roosevelt, Acting Secretary of the Navy, to Bryan, Secretary of State, October 28, 1913, Hackworth, op. cit., p. 640. For instruction in a similar vein see ibid., pp. 639-641 and Moore, op. cit., pp. 851, 853. This writer is unaware of any case where objections have been raised by Latin American states based upon a distinction between diplomatic asylum and asylum on a public vessel. There are indeed cases where objections have been raised but they are generally based upon the contention that the refugees are common criminals rather than political refugees. See case of asylum granted on board a Portuguese man-of-war in Rio de Janeiro Bay in 1849, Moore, op. cit., pp. 853-855. For a case involving a Chilean general on board a French vessel see Tocornal, Chilean Minister of Foreign Relations, to the Commandant to the French Station in the Pacific, February 15, 1838, Chile, Jurisprudencia de la cancilleria chilena, pp. 145-146. For a case involving asylum on board an Argentine gunboat (and later, merchant vessels) in Paraguayan waters see exchange of notes in Argentina, Memoria, 1911–1912, pp. 87-99. In some cases it is not clear whether objections are raised because of the particular refugee involved, because of a refusal to recognize asylum generally or because of a refusal to recognize some forms of asylum (i.e. asylum on public ships) although willing to recognize other forms. See Tocornal, Chilean Minister of Foreign Relations, to the Foreign [Diplomatic?] Agents, February 17, 1938, Chile, Jurisprudencia de la cancilleria chilena, p. 146.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1965

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Neale Ronning
    • 1
  1. 1.Tulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

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