ISLAMABAD: The lingering dispute over immunity for jailed US official Raymond Davis, accused of double murder, may end up at the International Court of Justice if efforts to resolve the matter diplomatically and bilaterally fail.
Although the US has been insisting that it is focused on bilaterally settling the row, sources suggest that the dispute could be referred to the ICJ.
“There is a dispute resolution mechanism. There is an optional protocol to Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR)… under which there is a provision for the dispute to be notified to the International Court of Justice,” a diplomatic source said on Tuesday.
Both Pakistan and the US are signatories to the ‘optional protocol’ to the VCDR.
Another route for ending the controversy could be arbitration.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly on Monday that the two countries continued to differ on the interpretation and applicability of international and national laws in the case.
The government last week requested the Lahore High Court, hearing petitions challenging Davis’s immunity, for more time to certify his status.
Indecision on part of the government has added to confusion in the case, but it is widely speculated that delaying tactics are being employed to provide the US embassy and the victims’ families an opportunity to reach a compromise.
A reference to the ICJ in a dispute over immunity is rare and the only precedent is that of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.
“States realise that they have to work it out together,” the diplomatic source said.
The VCDR’s optional protocol had mandatory jurisdiction and the ICJ “decision will be binding on the states”, said the sources, who is an expert in international law.
“It will be the responsibility of the state concerned to bring its actions in conformity with international law,” the expert stressed.
Meanwhile, a US embassy official questioned the jurisdiction of Pakistani courts to criminally prosecute Davis.
“Since he enjoys immunity the matter shouldn’t have been in the court in the first place,” the official said, adding that Pakistani courts didn’t have jurisdiction to hear his case.