Fiji diplomat case now in South Africa's hands, following death
A South African diplomat in Fiji may escape penalty after a fatal road accident.
Fiji's police commissioner says a recent incident involving a South African diplomat is now out of police hands and is a matter between the foreign ministries of both countries.
Major General Ben Groenewald has cited the Vienna Convention for his actions in instructing police to release the man following a fatal car crash.
He has also confirmed an official complaint has been lodged against him for obstructing a police investigation.
Alex Perrottet reports.
Theodorus Mostert, the corporate services manager at the South Africa High Commission, was involved in an accident that claimed the life of 26-year-old Ashneel Singh. Under the Vienna Convention, diplomats have immunity from arrest, detention and police questioning. Major General Ben Groenewald says the ball is in South Africa's court, and its government could either waive the immunity or pursue the matter in its own jurisdiction.
BEN GROENEWALD: Those are the two options but as I indicated the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions has no say on that. That is a diplomatic bilateral agreement in terms of the Vienna Convention between the sending state and the receiving state.
The charges d'affairs of the South African High Commission in Suva, Velelo Kwepile, says he met with the Fiji Foreign Affairs ministry and the matter has been referred to the South African government in Pretoria.
VELELO KWEPILE: I have informed my head office, I sent a cable and then they have responded to me that it has been referred to our legal division. So it's going to be process and then I'll be able to inform the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Suva here.
Fiji's ministry of foreign affairs could not confirm whether a specific request had been made for South Africa to waive the immunity. Ben Groenewald says the man was questioned and an blood-alcohol test was taken, but that is also against the convention, and could be deemed inadmissible evidence in any future trial.
BEN GROENEWALD: He was immediately taken from the scene for an alcohol test. Now that is also a debatable issue. Because in terms of the Vienna Convention they were not supposed to do it. So that might be contested in court because that was already an infringement on his immunity.
A Fijian political scientist at New Zealand's Otago University, Alumita Durutalo, says the fact that Fiji police won't be able to properly investigate the incident without a waiver of immunity is a problem.
ALUMITA DURUTALO: I think that's a weakness in the convention that it just imposes a blanket ban, that will get some people away with committing crime. So I believe that should be reviewed.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police, Henry Brown, has confirmed an official complaint was filed against Major General Groenwald for obstructing a police investigation. Neither he or the Commissioner will comment until it's completed.
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