St. Kitts and Nevis’ UN diplomat describes as “provocative and uncivilized” the treatment of Vincentian counterpart by New York police
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MARCH 30TH 2012 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Delano Bart has described the New York police officer's treatment of his St. Vincent and the Grenadines counterpart as “provocative and uncivilized” and a “very serious and flagrant violation of obligations under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”
Ambassador Bart, who is chairman of the United Nations CARICOM Group, has accused the New York City Police Department of “flagrant violation” of the rules of diplomatic immunity and privileges by aggressively arresting the ambassador of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Reuter’s news agency reported that in a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Her Excellency Susan Rice, Ambassador Bart said the incident occurred on Wednesday after St. Vincent's envoy, Camillo Gonsalves, stepped out of his car. Ambassador Gonsalves is the son of the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves.
Bart said in the letter, which was obtained by Reuters on Friday, that Gonsalves walked past a police barrier to take the elevator to his office.
“On his way to the elevator, he was shouted at and confronted by a police officer, who rudely questioned his action and then grabbed him by the neck and shoulder, displaying undue physical harassment against the ambassador,” Bart wrote.
Under those agreements, the United States commits to recognizing diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution for accredited foreign diplomats.
Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves told The Associated Press earlier in the week that he was returning to his office after lunch and stepped out of his official car, through a barricade in front of the building -- as he has done for the past five years -- when he was confronted by an officer who shouted: “What do you think the barricades are there for?”
He said he walked to the elevator and the officer ran into the building, “grabbed me by my neck and shoulders, spun me around and said, ‘Didn't you see me talking to you’.”
Gonsalves said he replied: “You couldn't have been talking to me.”
He said the officer then demanded identification. “I said, `Why? Am I under arrest?' He said, `Well you are now.”
“At that point he handcuffed me, with assistance from other officers he called as a backup,” Gonsalves said.
He said other ambassadors with offices in the building -- including the envoys of Gambia, Dominica and St. Lucia as well as his own staff -- came into the lobby and began to tell the officer he was in the wrong.
The New York Police Department presented a different version of events.
The New York police countered by saying that the envoy from the tiny island nation refused to identify himself after pushing past a security barrier intended to protect Israel's diplomatic headquarters in New York City from attack.
Paul Browne, an NYPD spokesman, said Gonsalves stepped out of his car in front of a double police barrier in front of the building where his office is located. The Israeli mission and consulate are housed in the same building.
Gonsalves moved the barriers and walked through, ignoring orders from a police officer not to move the barriers and to stop, Browne said. Gonsalves refused to stop or to identify himself. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and handcuffed near the elevators inside the building.
"He was subsequently identified and released at the scene," Browne said.
Neither Gonsalves nor the U.S. mission had an immediate response to requests for comment.
The police ramped up security at Israel's diplomatic headquarters in New York this month after a deadly attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.The police did the same for synagogues and other Jewish institutions across the city.