Namibian Ambassador to Germany shielded by diplomatic immunity

Published: 22 October 2019  Author: Julian Craven  DOI: 10.17176/20220113-170235-0

In May 2019, it was reported that the Namibian Ambassador to Germany, Andreas B.D. Guibeb, allegedly owed money to several companies and had attachment orders against him to the value of some €80,000. One of the companies which had conducted the Namibian Embassy’s media work and had provided website and project support sued the ambassador in th German courts. As the Ambassador did not appear at the various hearings, on 16 May 2018 the District Court of Berlin Schöneberg issued an arrest warrant against the Ambassador in execution proceedings for unpaid debt. The arrest warrant provided as follows:

“At the request of the creditor, the coercive detention of the debtor is ordered pursuant to section 802g of the Code of Civil Procedure in order to force the debtor to provide information on his financial circumstances in accordance with section 802c of the Code of Civil Procedure with regard to a claim from the enforcement order of the District Court of Aschersleben of 21 November 2017.”

According to section 802g of the Code of Civil Procedure the court shall issue a warrant of arrest against a debtor who has failed to appear at the meeting scheduled for the provision of the information on his financial circumstances and assets without having excused himself. The debtor is arrested by a court-appointed enforcement officer. A certified copy of the warrant for arrest is to be physically submitted to the debtor at the time of his arrest.

The arrest warrant, however, could not be executed because of the Ambassador’s diplomatic status. Under Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) relations an ambassador enjoys immunity both from adjudicative and enforcement jurisdiction of the host State. The provision provides in the relevant parts:

“1. A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction, except in the case of […].

3. No measure of execution may be taken in respect of a diplomatic agent except in the cases of [the exceptions mentioned in paragraph 1], and provided that the measures concerned can be taken without infringing the inviolability of his person or of his residence.”

As none of the exceptions mentioned in Article 31 (1) of the VCDR was applicable, the arrest warrant against the Ambassador could have only be executed if Namibia had waived his diplomatic immunity. In the past, the German Federal Foreign Office has mediated in individual cases concerning private monetary claims against foreign diplomats but there is not much more the Foreign Office can do apart from declaring the diplomat persona non grata, a measure that is not normally taken in cases of unpaid bills.

Category: Diplomatic and consular relations

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  • Julian Craven is a research assistant at the Institute for Public International Law of the University of Bonn. He studied law at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

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