The Undersecretary of State for Defence on immunity from criminal jurisdiction for the Italian military personnel deployed in Iraq

On 12 December 2014, the Undersecretary of State for Defence, Mr Domenico Rossi, in response to a parliamentary question, clarified the Italian position on the issue of the status of Italian military personnel deployed in Iraq with the task of training Iraqi security forces. In particular, Mr Rossi addressed the issue of immunity of the said personnel from Iraqi criminal jurisdiction, resulting from an exchange of diplomatic notes between the two Governments to that effect, based on the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, and stressed its binding force and applicability to the entire territory of Iraq, including the autonomous region of Kurdistan. He stated:

[…] the Iraqi Government of Prime Minister al-Abadi manifested his willingness not to directly pronounce itself on the proposals of SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), advanced by the various States. Indeed, the Iraqi Government prefers to grant the military personnel deployed in Iraq with the task of training Iraqi security forces – hence, not directly participating in the hostilities – the status provided for the administrative and technical staff of embassies by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961: which, in particular, provides for the complete immunity from local criminal jurisdiction.

Therefore, a [diplomatic] note was sent to the Iraqi Government by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in order to ask for the formal recognition of the aforementioned status to the Italian military personnel holding diplomatic passport: passport which is/will be provided to the personnel gradually sent on the ground. The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs formalized such recognition by means of a [diplomatic] note sent to the Embassy of the Italian Republic in Baghdad. Therefore, the recognition is already into place; and, I repeat, it provides, pursuant to the Vienna Convention of 1961, complete immunity from local criminal jurisdiction.

Furthermore, with reference to the statement that the institutions of Kurdistan “may not consider as binding a mere diplomatic note issued by Baghdad”, it is observed that Kurdistan is evidently an autonomous region of the State of Iraq; hence, the international community and Italy cannot recognize Kurdistan as a sovereign State entity.

On account of such evidence, and in the perspective of international legal relations between the different sovereign States, the only interlocutor is the Government of the Republic of Iraq, and therefore an exchange of verbal notes between the Government of the [Italian] Republic and the Government of the Republic of Iraq is binding within the entire Iraqi territory, including the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

The full, original text of the interview (in Italian) can be found here.

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