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Diplomatic Immunity is a privilege and/or courtesy granted to official representatives of foreign governments to conduct official business and not be subjected to criminal charges or lawsuits for any actions taken while in their official capacity. The purpose of immunity is to allow diplomats to conduct the business of the country which they represent unhindered. It is not total, immunity, however. One will be held criminally responsible for felonies or other seriously unlawful acts (the Mel Gibson movie to the contrary notwithstanding.) Additionally, if one is acting in a private rather than official capacity, the privilege would most likely not apply. However, as long as the diplomat is lawfully engaged in the business of his government, he cannot be held criminally or civilly liable. The privilege dates back to ancient times when mistreatment of a diplomat was considered mistreatment of the sovereign whom he represented. It has more recently become an element of international law by convention recognized by all major nations of the world.
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