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Diplomatic Relations Act Statement on Signing H.R. 7819 Into Law.

October 02, 1978

It is with pleasure and pride that I have signed into law the Diplomatic Relations Act.

I am pleased, because its enactment is a reflection of what Congress can accomplish when skillful and dedicated leaders of both Houses work closely together in a common cause, with full cooperation and participation from the executive branch— in this instance, especially from the State and Justice Departments. I particularly want to thank Congressmen Dante Fascell and Joe Fisher and Senators Paul Sarbanes and Mac Mathias for their superb efforts on behalf of this legislation.

The pride that I feel stems from the fact that this significant step, so important in our conduct of foreign relations and to our own citizens, has been achieved under this administration after years of unsuccessful efforts.

The Diplomatic Relations Act repeals previous U.S. statutes on diplomatic immunity, which were established to fit conditions of 18th century diplomacy. Under these laws, complete immunity from local jurisdiction was extended to all members of foreign diplomatic missions—from Ambassadors to private servants, for any and all activities, official or private, while in the United States. Such broad legislative protection is outmoded in terms of current activities and goes far beyond the requirements of international law as set forth in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, now subscribed to by 122 countries.

The act establishes the privileges and immunities provisions of the Vienna Convention as the essential United States law on the subject. It provides a workable basis for substantially reducing those occasional controversies involving diplomatic immunity which result in personal hardship to innocent victims, who otherwise would have little or no legal recourse. The reforms of the act are consistent with the original purposes of diplomatic immunity. They ensure the legitimate, unimpaired conduct of official relations between the representatives of sovereign states.

Two features of the Diplomatic Relations Act are especially noteworthy: (1) the requirement that foreign diplomats carry automobile liability insurance and (2) the "direct action" provision, which allows an injured party to sue the insurance carrier directly in those instances where diplomatic immunity may continue to be invoked.

I congratulate the Congress on action in a long-ignored but vital area. This bill will help to usher the United States into the modern world of diplomatic law and practice.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 7819 is Public Law 95-393, approved September 30.

Jimmy Carter, Diplomatic Relations Act Statement on Signing H.R. 7819 Into Law. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243648

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