180th Meeting of Committee on Relations with Host Country

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09-Jan-1997 01:04:44
Speakers in Host Country Committee call for investigation of incident involving New York police officers and diplomats of Russian Federation and Belarus at the 180th meeting.

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As the Committee on Relations with the Host Country began consideration of an incident involving two New York City police officers and two diplomats from the permanent missions of Belarus and the Russian Federation, speakers called for a thorough investigation of the matter by the host country authorities. Committee Chairman Nicos Agathocleous (Cyprus), speaking for the Committee, said that the host country had promised that the Committee would be informed of the status of its investigation of the incident.

Addressing the Committee, the representative of the Russian Federation said that First Secretary Boris V. Obnossov of his Mission had been beaten by New York police officers and that his arm had been seriously injured, his glasses broken and clothes torn. The incident had taken place despite the fact that the diplomat had produced his driver licence and diplomatic identity card. The Russian Federation expected explanations and apologies as well as compensation for the injuries the diplomat had suffered.

The representative of Belarus said that his Government had lodged a formal complaint to the host country authorities. The actions of the two police officers were a flagrant violation of diplomatic immunity and protection. Instead of an objective investigation, he said groundless charges had been made.

The representative of the United States said that a police report of the incident indicated that the police officers were citing a vehicle parked illegally when they were approached by two men yelling and cursing. The Russian Federation diplomat had walked unsteadily, slurred his speech and smelled of alcohol. He suggested a meeting between the New York Police Department and the Permanent Representatives of the two missions as soon as possible, to resolve the issue.

Statements were also made by the representatives of France, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Cyprus and Honduras. The New York City Commissioner to the United Nations and the Consular Corps and a representative of the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York also spoke.

The Committee on Relations with the Host Country met this morning at the request of the Russian Federation to consider an incident which took place on 29 December 1996, involving New York City police officers and senior officials of its Permanent Mission and that of Belarus. The request was to be considered under the Committee's agenda item entitled "Question of privileges and immunities".

A letter dated 31 December from the Russian Federation addressed to the Chairman of the Committee transmits a note verbale dated 30 December 1996, from the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation addressed to the Office of Foreign Missions of the United States Department of State, which the Russian Mission requested to be circulated as a document of the Committee (document A/AC.154/300). A similar letter from the Permanent Mission of Belarus has also been circulated as an official document of the Committee (document A/AC.154/301).

Giving details of the incident, the Russian Federation letter states that Boris V. Obnossov, First Secretary of the Mission, and Yuri N. Orange, First Secretary of the Mission of Belarus, were, despite producing their diplomatic identity cards, forcibly dragged out of their car by New York City police officers at the corner of 80th Street and Amsterdam Avenue at 4 p.m. on 29 December 1996. In the process, Mr. Obnossov's arm and glasses were broken and his clothes torn by one of the police officers, subsequently. The two officials were taken to the 20th Police Precinct where their diplomatic status was confirmed and the handcuffs were removed.

According to the letter, despite the diplomats' legitimate demands for explanations, Captain James A. Clark of the Precinct failed "to give any plausible version of what had happened", nor did he offer apologies for the "unacceptable brutality". At about 6 p.m., the diplomats left the Precinct for Lenox Hill Hospital where Boris Obnossov was treated for a fracture and his arm put in a plaster cast. At 1:30 a.m. on 30 December 1996, Mr. Obnossov was brought to the Russian diplomatic compound "in a serious physical and depressed moral condition".
The note verbale states that what happened was a violation of international and United States law. The Russian Federation "expects from the United States authorities a thorough investigation of the incident, official explanations and apologies, disciplinary action against the culprits, as well as compensation for damages sustained" by Mr. Obnossov, including his hospital fees, treatment expenses and disability leave costs, it adds.

In its note verbale, the Permanent Mission of Belarus also says that it "expects a thorough investigation of the incident, official explanations and apologies" as well as disciplinary action against the culprits.

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