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Ambassador Gonsalves arrested after run-in with cop

Ambassador Gonsalves arrested after run-in with cop

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has said that action will be taken as a result of what he calls “the unjustified arrest” of this country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves.{{more}}

Gonsalves, in an interview yesterday, said that he had given instructions for a team of lawyers, which is expected to include Jomo Thomas, to be put together.

“We are taking the requisite diplomatic and legal action,” the prime minister said, adding that the act was a “dastardly treatment by the New York police officer, on a person who did absolutely nothing wrong.

“We are already putting all the steps together and I want to assure Vincentians that this government will continue to protect the dignity of this country, of our independence and sovereignty and the inviolability of the territorial space which includes our missions overseas – and the inviolability of our diplomats,” the prime minister said.

The incident occurred in New York City on Wednesday, following the Ambassador’s return from a meeting with Taiwanese diplomatic personnel, and according to the Prime Minister, the Ambassador was returning to his office in the building that houses the St Vincent and the Grenadines United Nations (UN) Mission in Manhattan.

The Prime Minister said that the Ambassador exited the official mission vehicle, which carries diplomat license plates, and made his way past a barrier that was placed just in front the building, and entered the building.

According to reports, the Ambassador said that he heard the New York Police Department (NYPD) officer shouting in his direction, but he did not respond, as he did not think that the officer was addressing him.

As he was about to make his way into the elevator however, the Prime Minister said that the Ambassador told him that the officer approached, asking if he had not heard that he was speaking to him, to which the Ambassador responded that he did, but that he did not think he (the officer) was addressing him.

“He held Camillo by his neck and shoulder and spun him around from the elevator and said to him ‘Show me your I.D’,” the Prime Minister said.

The Ambassador then asked the officer if he was being arrested, saying that he had done nothing wrong.

The NYPD officer responded that the Ambassador was being placed under arrest and proceeded to place handcuffs on one of the Ambassador’s hands.

According to the Prime Minister, the Ambassador kept his free hand in front of his body and refused to cooperate, but not resist arrest, when he was asked to put his other hand behind his back.

Two other officers were subsequently summoned as backup, and they, according to the Prime Minister, put the Ambassador’s other hand in cuffs behind his back.

Meanwhile, Deputy Head of the SVG UN Mission, Nedra Miguel, made calls to the United States UN Mission and one of the officers made a call to a senior NYPD officer.

The Prime Minister, in his account, said that both officials arrived on the scene around the same time and that by the time they arrived, other ambassadors and persons had gathered, and identified Gonsalves as the ambassador for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The US official asked the police officer to remove the handcuffs from Gonsalves, but he refused.

It was the senior police officer who eventually took them off, the Prime Minister said.

According to the Associated Press, Gonsalves remained handcuffed for 20 minutes.

There was an attempt, according to the Prime Minister, by the US UN official, immediately following the incident, to “sweep the issue under the carpet”.

The Prime Minister said the Vincentian ambassador was asked by the US official if he would allow the police officer to come up to the SVG mission so that the two men could shake hands.

But according to the Prime Minister, the Ambassador said that he would not allow the NYPD to enter the territory of SVG.

The mission office is Vincentian territory under the Vienna Convention.

“He took the position of the territorial space of St Vincent and the Grenadines independence and sovereignty and inviolability of the territorial space,” the Prime Minister said.

Ambassador Gonsalves also informed the US official that the matter had already been drawn to the attention of his foreign minister and prime minister and was currently out of his hands.

The Prime Minister said since the incident, the Ambassador has been complaining of problems with his left hand and had been x-rayed.

The other CARICOM missions to the United Nations have been involved in the matter, and according to the Prime Minister, reports and complaints will be made to the relevant authorities, including the US government, the Mayor of NYC and the United Nations.

He added that the government is taking the incident very seriously. The Prime Minister said that some of the persons gathered at the scene said that the arresting officer communicated to the other two officers that he could not have allowed the Ambassador to go into the building, because he looked like a terrorist.

“Camillo is a well behaved and elegantly attired person and he goes about his official duties spick and span, but there is a kind of madness that tends to grip some law enforcement officials in some places and this is just one of those unfortunate incidents, but a serious matter,” Gonsalves said.

Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace was contacted and informed on the matter, the Prime Minister said, adding that he did not want the issue to become politically divisive.

Dr Douglas Slater, this country’s Foreign Minister, has called for the incident to be fully investigated.

Slater, speaking yesterday on the ‘Shake-up’ radio programme, said that the incident was serious and was not as “simple as a handshake.”

According to Article 29 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, “The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any

attack on his person, freedom or dignity.”

“In fact, they apparently were saying that Camillo was acting disorderly,” the foreign minister said, adding that he did not believe that this was the case.

“I trust the account given by Camillo.”

Slater said that the incident was a serious and unfortunate diplomatic incident. He said he is in communication with La Celia Prince, this country’s Ambassador to the United States and he has had discussions with the prime minister.

“We are leaving no stone unturned – we want legal redress,” Slater said. He further contended that the officer should have exercised more discretion, particlualry because the building houses numerous foreign missions.

Slater agreed that there is a need for security, but said if you are going to be on the lookout for potential terrorist threats, there should be a system used in order to avoid affecting those who are legitimate.

Camillo Gonsalves is the first son of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. He has been this country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations since since September 1, 2007.(DD)

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