Wednesday, 13 June 2012

There is an Australian lawyer

being detained in Libya who is working for the International Criminal Court in the Hague. She should have diplomatic immunity - meaning she she should not be detained. Instead, if she has done something the Libyans consider to be a breach of their laws she should be deported.
Diplomatic relations need to work this way or there would be no diplomats. Diplomats are, as someone famously put it, "sent abroad to lie for their countries".  I know. My father had cousins who were in the diplomatic corps and served abroad. I also know other diplomats. Their life is not, as some seem to think, one long round of parties where you make social chit-chat.  Their lives are, among other things, about not making social blunders and, if not actually being tolerant, pretending to be tolerant of all sorts of differences.
I rather suspect that the Australian lawyer currently being detained was rather naive. It is probably not altogether her fault. Other people should also have been watching out for her. She should have been told that what she was going to do was dangerous, that she was most certainly not going to be able to see the prisoner without being accompanied by someone who "understood" English, that she should have asked to be searched before she entered his presence - and after she left it. She should have been very, very careful about what she said and not given any indication of whether he was being treated as guilty or innocent.  She probably had some idea it was dangerous but I wonder if she knew the rest? Even if she did it would have been difficult. 
I also wonder why a woman was sent. This is not being sexist - although I am aware it will appear like that. I just wonder whether it was "culturally correct" to send a woman into that situation. I suspect it was seen as an insult.
There are all sorts of pitfalls for the unwary. I have no doubt that I would make one blunder after another if I had to live in any other culture, let alone one that is so very different from my own.  There is a vast number of things I know nothing about. I cringe at the memory of some things I have done.
I was interested therefore in a letter in our state newspaper this morning. It was written in response to a letter from someone I have worked with. He had asked this woman about her background as she writes frequently and passionately about "refugees" and related issues. Her letters exude confidence that she is right and that those who dare to disagree are wrong.
I have no doubt at all that this woman is sincere and believes what she writes. I was surprised however at how limited her actual experience is. I wish I had her confidence. I am very glad I have a little more experience. I wish I had even more experience.
It takes a great deal of experience to be truly diplomatic.

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