Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for New Zealand

Newsline: New Zealand to open embassy in Ireland

New Zealand has announced plans to open its first embassy in Dublin. At present, the country is represented here by the New Zealand High Commission in London. However, there is a New Zealand Honorary Consulate-General in the capital. An estimated 14,000 Irish-born people live in New Zealand, while approximately one-in-six New Zealanders claim Irish heritage – out of a total population of 4.7 million.


Newsline: New Zealand asks US embassy diplomat to leave

The US embassy in New Zealand has refused to waive diplomatic immunity for one of its staff members New Zealand police want to question. An incident involving a diplomat from the US embassy was brought to the attention of New Zealand police on Sunday, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) spokesman says. MFAT was asked by police on Monday to request a waiver of immunity from the US to enable police to undertake investigations, and did so that day. The US government has on Friday declined to waive the diplomat’s immunity. Therefore, MFAT has asked the US to withdraw the staff member in question from New Zealand. Police were called to an address in Lower Hutt but the man, who works at the embassy in Wellington as a technical attache, had left, apparently nursing a broken nose and a black eye, TVNZ reported. A US government spokesman says as a matter of policy “we do not comment on the specifics of matters under investigation”. “We take seriously any suggestion that our staff have fallen short of the high standards of conduct expected of US government personnel. ”Any allegations of wrongdoing are always fully investigated.”


Newsline: Malaysia denies ‘dragging feet’ over extradition of ex-envoy to New Zealand

Malaysia confirmed on Thursday (Oct 9) it has received the official request to arrange for former diplomat Muhammad Rizalman Ismail to be sent back to New Zealand to face criminal charges, and denied it is “dragging its feet on the matter”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement said it received the request for extradition on Oct 3, about five months after the case first transpired. It has forwarded the request to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Attorney General Chambers for further action. Second Warrant Officer Muhammad Rizalman, formerly the defence staff assistant at the High Commission of Malaysia in Wellington, was charged in a New Zealand court with burglary and assault with intent to commit rape. He was arrested in Wellington after allegedly following a 21-year-old woman and attacking her in her home. The arrest sparked talks between the two countries as the Vienna Convention prevents diplomats from being arrested or detained in host countries for any crime. The ministry said it would like to reiterate that given the excellent bilateral relations between Malaysia and New Zealand, and taking into account the strong public interest in the case, the extradition request will undergo the due process of the law.


Newsline: New Zealand seeks extradition of Malaysian diplomat on sex attack charges

New Zealand officials have formally requested the extradition of a Malaysian diplomat accused of a sex attack in Wellington, Radio New Zealand reported Friday. Defense attach Muhammad Rizalman, 35, was charged in May with assault with intent to rape a woman, but claimed diplomatic immunity and fled the country. In early September, a Malaysian news website said the government there was ready to send Rizalman back to New Zealand to stand trial and it was waiting for a request from the New Zealand government to do so, said the report. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) told Radio New Zealand Friday there was no extradition treaty between New Zealand and Malaysia, but lawyers had been working through complex legal arrangements. New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully on Friday announced a ministerial inquiry into the way diplomatic officials enabled Rizalman to flee the country, after the alleged victim of the attack, who was 21 at the time, publicly called on MCully to resign over MFAT’s “incompetent” handling of the case. Rizalman was allowed to return to Malaysia — despite an official New Zealand request for Malaysia to waive diplomatic immunity — because MFAT officials had given the Malaysian authorities the impression in unofficial talks that New Zealand would not object if he left the country.


Newsline: New Zealand Starts Extraditing Malaysian Envoy Accused Of Sexual Assault

New Zealand has begun the process of extraditing a Malaysian diplomat accused of trying to rape a 21-year-old Kiwi woman almost five months ago. The New Zealand government officials formally applied for Muhammad Rizalman Ismail’s extradition. “Lawyers from both governments have been sharing documents and working through technically complex legal arrangements,” the spokesman was quoted as saying. “The ministry is satisfied progress is being made and appreciates the on-going co-operation of the Malaysian government. An announcement will be made once the arrangements are finalised. The process was complex because there is no extradition treaty between New Zealand and Malaysia,” the spokesman added. Muhammad Rizalman was arrested by Kiwi police on May 9 and charged a day later with alleged burglary and assault with intent to commit rape on 21-year-old Tania Billingsley, with both charges carrying the maximum penalty of a 10-year jail term. The junior envoy’s subsequent invocation of diplomatic immunity and return home sparked an embarrassing public spat between New Zealand and Malaysia, following allegations that he had abused diplomatic privilege to escape punishment. Muhammad Rizalman had been scheduled to be sent back to New Zealand in July, but this was delayed after a psychiatric examination found him to be depressed and withdrawn; a second round of tests was then called to determine his fitness to travel.


Newsline: Accused Malaysian diplomat ready to return to New Zealand

The Malaysian diplomat at the centre of serious sexual assault allegations is reportedly ready to return to New Zealand to face trial. Media in Malaysia say officials there are waiting on a request to return Muhammed Rizalman to Wellington. Mr Rizalman is accused of attacking a Wellington woman with the intention of raping her. But he left New Zealand under diplomatic immunity in what Foreign Minister Murray McCully says was a communications mix-up. Prime Minister John Key says he doesn’t “100 percent know” whether the request has been made to Malaysia for Mr Rizalman to be returned, but suspects it has because that process has always been in train through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Mr Key told reporters he would like to see Mr Rizalman return to New Zealand as soon as possible.


Newsline: Israel’s Rejection of New Zealand Ambassador May Spark Diplomatic Row

New Zealand ambassador to Israel Jonathan Curr has been rejected by Israeli officials because the diplomat was reportedly accredited to the Palestinian Authority. According to reports, Curr was scheduled to travel to Israel within the week to present his official documents to Israeli President Reuven. When Curr revealed he was also planning to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Israel had expressed its disagreement to the said meeting. Israeli ministry officials told Curr he acted against diplomatic protocol. Israeli paper Haretz reported that the new Kiwi ambassador had to cancel his trip for Israel. The rejection may spark a diplomatic row between New Zealand and Israel. New Zealand does not have an embassy in Israel because its relations are maintained in its embassy in Ankara covering several nations in the region. According to reports, New Zealand’s ambassador to Turkey serves as a non-resident diplomat to Israel and visits Jerusalem for monthly meetings. Curr’s visit to Ramallah was not supposed to be a full presentation of his credentials since New Zealand does not recognise Palestine as a state. He was only to give a letter of introduction containing his appointment as New Zealand’s ambassador who also maintains ties with the Palestinian Authority. When Israel’s Foreign Ministry heard of the news, it accused Curr of diplomatic protocol violation. Israel strictly observes rules that prevent an ambassador to gain credentials from both Israel and the Palestine Authority. Israeli officials said that unless Curr will remove his “dual credentials,” he will not be allowed to act as ambassador to Israel. Reports said Curr was surprised to learn of Israel’s rejection since his two predecessors have served as ambassador to Israel and the Palestine Authority without any objection from the officials. He was informed that the previous New Zealand ambassadors who served before him presented their credentials to Abbas without Israel’s knowledge. The Foreign Ministry suggested a low-ranking diplomat from New Zealand’s embassy in Turkey should be the one to present the credentials and handle ties with Palestine. The suggestion had allegedly insulted Curr who told officials they should not be telling New Zealand how to handle its diplomatic affairs.