Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for January 16, 2010

Newsline: State Department – US Death Toll in Haiti at 6

The State Department has raised the number of confirmed deaths of Americans in Haiti to six. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday that in addition to the previously reported death of State Department employee Victoria DeLong, there have been at least five other confirmed U.S. deaths – all private U.S. citizens whose names have not been released publicly. Crowley said the U.S. death toll is going to rise further, but he offered no estimate. DeLong, a cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy, was killed when her home collapsed in the earthquake.



Newsline: Malaysia dismisses Sabah attack warning – report

Malaysian authorities have full control over security in the Borneo island state of Sabah, a government official was quoted on Saturday as saying after the United States embassy warned of attacks against foreigners. “Since the last travel warning was issued in the area, security and intelligence there had been tightened tremendously and there had been no reported attempts or acts of terror, including against foreigners,” National Security Council secretary Mohamed Tajudeen Abdul Wahab was quoted as saying. In a “warden notice” posted on its website (http://malaysia.usembassy.gov/), dated Friday, the U.S. embassy said resorts located in isolated areas of eastern Sabah, a state bordering the southern Philippines, were of “present concern”. It identified areas such as Semporna and the islands of Mabul and Sipadan, as well as travel to and from the area. Sabah’s island resorts are popular tourist spots. The warning said there were indications criminal and terrorist groups “are planning or intend acts of violence against foreigners”. The warden notice said the Philippines-based, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group had kidnapped foreigners in eastern Sabah in the past.


Newsline: Protests outside Maltese embassies over Jewish bones

Protesters from a Jewish group held a protest outside the Maltese embassy in Tel Aviv. Representatives of Jewish communities recently held peaceful protests in front of Malta’s embassies in Tel Aviv and Washington to urge the Maltese government to ensure there is no interference with human bones at the Jewish catacombs in Rabat. The year-long dispute concerns the discovery of what are believed to be Jewish catacombs in Rabat, and the Jewish community’s request for the place to be treated like a burial ground rather than an archaeological find. A major bone of contention was Heritage Malta’s insistence to document each and every bone found by measuring and photographing it. The Jewish community objected to this.


Newsline: Irish Ambassador immunity in job rights case upheld

Ambassador Priscilla Jana claimed the immunity after a former employee tried to bring a claim against her under the Payment of Wages Act, 1991, the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, and the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977-2001. Valentyna Khristonsen, a Ukranian domestic worker, began working for the ambassador in her home in Dalkey in 2006, but had her employment contract terminated in 2008. A spokeswoman for the ambassador said Ms Khristonsen had reported days late for work on a number of occasions after holidays and had received warnings about her employment from the ambassador. In arguing for diplomatic immunity, counsel for the ambassador cited the Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 which defined the premises of a diplomatic mission as including buildings used for the mission, “including the residence of the head of the mission”. That convention also states the “private residence of a diplomatic agent shall enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the mission”. The Rights Commissioner said the definitions in the 1961 Convention “clearly provide that the ambassador’s residence falls within the zone of immunity”. By employing the claimant, the ambassador was not engaging in any professional or commercial activity beyond her official function.