If an embassy decides to be troublesome with the host country, causing social issues, blaming people (such as celebrities), looking to bring people to court, and eventually try to start a war, what can be done about it?

I understand this question may be a bit vague - I don't have a concrete example, but I'm looking to learn "how far" can an embassy go, just because (as far as I know) embassies are considered foreign territory, and police can't enter embassies without permission, etc...

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    your question is rather odd. "causing social issues" - I have no idea what you mean. "Blaming celebrities" - We don't need embassies for that we have newspapers(!) "Bring people to court" embassies don't do that. "Try to start a war" - again, embassies don't do that, they try to stop wars.
    – James K
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 19:49
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    There's a pretty big gulf between "bring people to court" and "start a war." Is the embassy launching armed attacks against the host country?
    – cpast
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 19:49
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    Embassies are "inviolable," but they are not foreign territory.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 20:45
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    While I agree with the sentiment (expressed in the comments) that the author seems to be confused about a number of issues, the way to address such confusion is with answers -- not comments or 'close' votes. It's clear enough what they are asking -- what is the role of an embassy and what lines are embassies expected to not cross. The fact that they ask this question with examples, without crystallizing the inquiry into an interrogatory, does not take away from the fact that they are asking a concrete question. If someone decides to edit, the motivating examples should not be lost.
    – wrod
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 20:41

3 Answers 3


For the most part, embassies can only be established in a country with that country's permission (it gets more complicated if a country agrees to host an international organization). The host country can kick out any foreign diplomats at any time for any reason and does not have to explain its decision. It can also break off diplomatic relations entirely at any time for any reason, and again does not have to explain its decision. This normally will increase tensions, not decrease them.


Once this pattern of behaviour is clear, the Ambassador will be called for an interview with the Foreign Minister of the host state and told in no uncertain terms to stop this nonsense.

If they refuse to do so, diplomats who there is evidence against will be declared Persona Non Grata. The host country can do this at any time, for any reason they please, and it removes the diplomat's immunity to trial and punishment[1]. Diplomats who have been PNG'ed normally leave the country immediately, and are allowed to do so.

If expelling a few diplomats does not put a stop to the problem, then the host country will terminate diplomatic relations. At this point, "diplomats" from the guest country are given a chance to leave. If they do not, they are subject to arrest, trial and punishment like any other foreign criminal. The host country's police forces are likely to treat them as a priority, and if they try violence, to bring in the army to apply superior force.

An example of gross misconduct by diplomats can be found at Murder of Yvonne Fletcher. In that case, after a short siege, diplomatic relations were broken without any PNG'ing.

[1] Diplomats are not immune to being arrested. If they're engaged in a crime outside diplomatic premises they can be arrested like anyone else. However, once things have calmed down and they assert their diplomatic immunity, they cannot be held by the police, nor tried or punished. They are released into the custody of their ambassador, if they aren't immediately PNG'ed.

  • "for any reason they please": or for no reason at all. Furthermore, declaring a diplomat persona non grata does not remove immunity. Only the sending country can waive immunity. Diplomats who fail to leave within a reasonable period after the end of their diplomatic functions (whether PNG or otherwise) also lose immunity, but definitely not immediately, and of course "reasonable" means "subject to debate."
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 20:57
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    Also: Diplomats with full immunity are not subject to arrest for any reason, even for crimes unrelated to their official duties. Police might seek to arrest a diplomat, but the diplomat's credentials entitle the diplomat to be released immediately, not into anyone's custody, and even if the diplomat is declared PNG.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 20:57
  • The murder of Yvonne Fletcher, linked from this answer, is probably the best example that any answer has given so far — including not just the killing of Fletcher herself, but the whole pattern of behaviour by Libyan “diplomats” in the UK leading up to it, flouting UK law with acts of violence against critics of the Gaddafi régime. Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 23:22
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 0:15
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    @Fizz the distinguishing factor in that case is not that it happened in Brazil but that the person is a consul. Consular immunity does not cover acts performed outside of official duties. Note the quotation from the judge: "an arrest due to an intentional crime against life, committed inside the couple's apartment (so outside of the consular environment) has no relation whatsoever to consular duties." Had the person been an ambassador or other embassy official, the outcome would have been different. Consular immunity is established by a different convention entirely.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 8:17

In addition to the answers by John and cpast, for practical purposes a lot might depend on:

  • The views of the foreign government on the conduct. Are the diplomats acting under orders from their government?
  • The views of the international community on the conduct. Are the issues the diplomats are causing in line with international norms or violating those norms?
  • Agreements the host nation might have signed regarding their domestic conduct.

One facet of what I have in mind here is diplomats engaging with civil society in their host country. In the more repressive states, that is certainly seen as "subversive" or "causing issues." Yet when the host countriy has publicly subscribed to the Helsinki Accords, including section VII, or something similar, they must be circumspect in how they complain.

A more sinister scenario is if a foreign government e.g. wants to engineer a coup, and the host government does not find it politic to throw their embassy out. Think back to Iran in the 1950s.

Somewhere in between is the case of diplomats being undiplomatic. A recent example is the current Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk. He is getting rotated to another position, but the final straw might well have been the fight he picked with Poland. His conduct was somewhat effective as long as both the German and European public considered the German government too hesitant -- but he became increasingly unable to work work effectively with the host government, except through TV talk shows.

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