The ‘Juffali affair’ as it is commonly being referred to, has dominated the news in both the local and British press over the past few weeks with varying arguments being put forward as to why the Government of Saint Lucia should allow its Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Dr. Walid Juffali, to invoke diplomatic immunity in a civil case against his ex-wife or not.
The Office of the Prime Minister had already issued a statement on its decision, but Dr. Kenny Anthony sought to provide some more clarifications during his New Year’s address, as to the reason behind the government’s decision, which he noted has caused concern in some quarters, given Saint Lucia’s close historical ties with the United Kingdom.
According to the Prime Minister, the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was unprecedented in that it was made on behalf of a private citizen.“Normally, such requests are made on behalf of the state, in instances where the state has a defined interest of its own,” he explained.
Secondly, the Prime Minister said, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office could not point to a single instance where a foreign Government had ever acceded to such a request.
He said while his government respected the right of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to establish its own threshold to entertain such requests, they did not believe that the threshold which had established had been met in this specific instance.
Dr. Anthony said: “to accede to the request would have set a dangerous precedent and place other States at risk by the force of the precedent. We have a duty to uphold the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities.”
The Prime Minister made it clear that Saint Lucia has a responsibility to protect its diplomats, except where they commit criminal offences or acts which are outrageous and unprecedented in nature and character.
“In this matter, the Government of Saint Lucia has been guided by our commitment to uphold the principles of International Law and respect for due process. It was not an easy decision to make given the pressures involved but we must always seek to do what we believe to be right even if we are alone,” he explained.