Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The uses and abuses of the "diplomatic pouch". The historical tidbits include the following:
Any container can be a diplomatic bag -- there are no limitations on size or shape. The Soviet Union tested the limits of this rule in 1984 when it claimed that a nine-ton tractor trailer was a diplomatic bag. As Chuck Ashman and Pamela Trescott tell the story in their book, Diplomatic Crime: "The white Mercedes truck bearing the blue Cyrillic letters reading Sovtransavto across its side tried to cross into Switzerland... The three Soviets driving the truck put off a request for inspection." The Swiss were not amused. "Though the Vienna Convention does not specify any size limitation for the bag, Swiss officials said they considered 450 pounds to be the maximum allowable size." The truck wound up in West Germany where Soviet officials permitted West German authorities to inspect the truck's contents: 207 crates, which themselves constituted diplomatic bags and weren't inspected.

The bag has been abused from time to time. For instance, in the 1984 Dikko incident, a former Nigerian minister was kidnapped in London and placed in a crate to be flown to Nigeria. With him in the crate was another man who was conscious and equipped with drugs and syringes. The kidnappers were hiding in another crate.