The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday reaffirmed that it would not charge a Czech official with sexual assault because he is protected by diplomatic immunity.
The office released a statement saying it has verified that the man works for the Czech Economic and Cultural Office Taipei’s foreign affairs corps and is thereby protected from criminal prosecution.
A foreign graduate student in Taiwan had filed a complaint alleging that the section head of the Czech Economic and Trade Section had sexually assaulted her on April 21 last year.
The woman said the Czech official had invited her to his home and then forced her to perform oral sex. Her lawyer said she was seeking criminal prosecution on charges of sexual offense against a person’s victim’s will.
The Taipei prosecutors’ office issued a decision earlier this year, saying that as Taiwan and the Czech Republic have mutual agreements on cooperation that include granting diplomatic immunity and protection against criminal prosecution, the office cannot initiate criminal proceedings against the Czech official.
The woman’s lawyer appealed the decision, saying that the sexual assault took place outside working hours and the incident was not related to the Czech official’s diplomatic duties, and is therefore not covered by diplomatic immunity.
The lawyer said that Taiwan also has mutual agreements on cooperation with France — a member of the EU like the Czech Republic — and asked for verification of the scope of immunity from prosecution granted to foreign diplomats.
Following the appeal, the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office referred the case back to Taipei prosecutors for re-examination.
After consulting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Taipei prosecutors said that the agreements include adherence to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, under which immunity is granted to foreign diplomats, unless under special circumstances for certain diplomats to clearly state waiver from diplomatic immunity.
Media reports said that Taiwan’s bilateral agreements grant “absolute immunity” to the Czech representative office, including immunity from criminal prosecution, as well as protection from civil and administrative litigation.
Taipei prosecutors said that as the Czech official has diplomatic immunity, he cannot be criminally prosecuted in Taiwan.
Some MOFA officials said that in signing such agreements, Taiwan must insist on the “principle of reciprocity,” instead of granting “absolute immunity,” it should push for “functional immunity,” which confers immunity to foreign service officials only when they are performing diplomatic duties, media reports said.
One ministry official said there are precedents for pursuing prosecution despite diplomatic immunity, such as asking the Czech justice system to take over the criminal prosecution and legal proceedings when the Czech official returns home.
Another official cited a 2016 incident in which an official from Turkey’s representative office was embroiled in a street altercation with several people and damaged personal property.
The Turkish official claimed to have diplomatic immunity and forced police to let him go. Later it was found that he did not have such protection, but it was too late as he had left Taiwan, the official said.
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