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US Ambassador meets with Vincentian Envoy

US Ambassador meets with Vincentian Envoy


Ambassador Susan Rice, the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, has expressed regret on behalf of herself and the U.S. Government at an incident in which Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves was subject to arrest and detention{{more}} by the New York Police Department (NYPD) as he attempted to enter his office.

A release from the Permanent Mission of St Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations said Ambassador Rice, who is a member of cabinet of the U.S. government, visited Ambassador Gonsalves at his office in the Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations on Tuesday, April 10. It marked the first time that a cabinet-level official of the U.S. Government visited the Vincentian Mission. Recognising that Ambassador Rice is currently serving as President of the United Nations Security Council at a particularly busy period in the Council’s agenda, Ambassador Gonsalves stressed his appreciation that Ambassador Rice had taken a personal interest in the matter, and had taken the time to visit him at his office.

“The half-hour conversation took place in a friendly and positive atmosphere, befitting the longstanding history of excellent relations between the United States of America and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The two Ambassadors covered all of the issues surrounding the 28 March incident. They discussed the facts of the incident, as well as the larger issues related to the interactions between sovereign countries and their diplomatic representatives,” the release said.

Ambassador Rice informed Ambassador Gonsalves that the New York Police Department would undertake a thorough internal examination of what took place on March 28, 2012. During that incident Gonsalves was detained and handcuffed for 20 minutes in the lobby of the building which houses the SVG Mission by a NYPD police officer. The NYPD said Gonsalves was handcuffed after he walked through a barricade and refused to identify himself. Gonsalves said he, other diplomats and others habitually step around / between the barricades to gain access to the building, and it was not until after he had already assaulted him, that the police officer requested identification.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the relevant resolutions and agreements governing the interactions between the United Nations and the United States of America, diplomatic agents have immunity from arrest or detention in the exercise of their functions.

The release, dated April 10, said Ambassador Gonsalves thanked Ambassador Rice for her personal concern, empathy, and sensitivity to all of the relevant issues at play in this incident. He also updated Ambassador Rice on developments that took place since the 28 March incident. Ambassador Rice reiterated the seriousness with which the U.S. government views its obligations to ensure that the dignity and safety of United Nations’ diplomats is respected. Ambassador Rice also indicated that she intended to discuss the incident with both CARICOM and the 33-member Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC), which sent formal letters of protest to the United States Mission in solidarity with Ambassador Gonsalves.

Both Ambassadors agreed to keep in touch to follow up on the matter.

“The very helpful and fruitful discussion between Ambassador Rice and Ambassador Gonsalves was indicative of both the seriousness with which the U.S. Government is treating the incident at the highest levels, and the successes of the Vincentian Government’s sustained and principled diplomatic activity in defence of their sovereignty and international law. The Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines welcomes the visit by Ambassador Rice and her sensitivity in this matter to be useful first steps towards ultimate resolution of this multifaceted issue,” the release said.