North Korean Suspects Join Long Tradition of Holing Up in Embassies
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — For years, North Korea has enjoyed the freedom for its citizens to visit, work and live in Malaysia, a rare privilege for a nation considered an outlaw by most of the world.
Now that freedom is in danger, with the North Korean Embassy in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, at the center of a murder investigation that is upending the cozy diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
Two North Korean men accused of participating in the Feb. 13 assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, have taken refuge in the embassy and are refusing to cooperate with the police. Their stance is presenting the Malaysian authorities with a daunting challenge as they try to crack a case with major international ramifications.
One of the two men, Hyon Kwang-song, is a high-ranking embassy employee who claims diplomatic immunity and, as a result, is untouchable by the police. The other, Kim Uk-il, an employee of the state-owned airline, Air Koryo, is safe from arrest as long as he remains on the embassy grounds.
两人中的一位叫玄光城（Hyon Kwang Song，音），他是使馆的高级员工，声称享有外交豁免权，因此，警察不能碰他。另一位是朝鲜国有航空公司高丽航空(Air Koryo)的雇员金旭一（Kim Uk-il，音），只要他不离开大使馆的院子，就不会被逮捕。
“The embassy is considered the sovereign territory of the country concerned, so the authorities cannot enter without permission,” said Sivananthan Nithyanantham, a Malaysian lawyer who has served as counsel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. “To do so would be akin to entering foreign soil without consent and would be a serious breach of diplomatic protocol.”
The Vienna Convention of 1961 gives diplomats and embassies a special protected status designed to safeguard the conduct of international affairs. But over the years there have been several high-profile cases of diplomats and citizens who have sought to use these protections to avoid prosecution for serious, nondiplomatic crimes.
During a tense standoff with the United States, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator, took refuge in the de facto Vatican embassy in Panama City in 1989 to avoid capture by United States troops who had come to seize him. He was forced to leave after 10 days when the Vatican declined to give him asylum.
在与美国紧张对峙期间，巴拿马前独裁者曼努埃尔·安东尼奥·诺列加将军(Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega)曾在1989年在当时巴拿马城的梵蒂冈大使馆避难，以免被前来抓他的美国军队逮捕。但他在10天后被迫离开，因为梵蒂冈拒绝为他提供庇护。
And Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, unsuccessfully sought to invoke diplomatic immunity to avoid a lawsuit alleging that he sexually assaulted a hotel maid in Manhattan in 2011. But his claim of immunity was rejected by a New York State judge because Mr. Strauss-Kahn had already left that post before the suit was filed.
One of the best-known diplomatic asylum seekers is Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for five years to avoid rape charges in Sweden. Although he is not a diplomat, Ecuador has granted him asylum and allowed him to stay at the embassy.
Like Mr. Assange, Kim Uk-il, the North Korean airline employee, is vulnerable to arrest should he ever leave the embassy grounds — or, in his case, if relations sour to the point that Malaysia and North Korea cut diplomatic ties and the embassy closes.
Intelligence services, including the C.I.A., routinely assign agents to work in foreign embassies in the guise of diplomats, largely because of the protections of diplomatic immunity. Governments sometimes expel these agents when espionage is uncovered. But it is rare for someone working under diplomatic cover to be linked to a murder and for a government to seek an arrest.
The police say Kim Jong-nam was assassinated by two women who rubbed VX nerve agent on his face. Siti Aisyah, 25, of Indonesia, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, of Vietnam, were charged Wednesday with his murder. They have said they thought they were participating in a harmless prank.
马来西亚警方说，金正男是被两名女子暗杀的，她们在他的脸上涂抹了VX神经毒剂。25岁的印度尼西亚女子西蒂·艾莎(Siti Aisyah)和28岁的越南女子段氏香（Doan Thi Huong，音）已在周三被控犯有谋杀罪。她们说，她们以为自己参加了一个无害的恶作剧。
South Korea has blamed the North Korean government for Mr. Kim’s assassination, and the Malaysian police have identified eight North Korean men, including Mr. Hyon, an embassy second secretary, and Kim Uk-il as participants in the plot.
North Korea said on Wednesday that the conclusion that Mr. Kim had been killed by VX nerve agent was “the height of absurdity” because such a poison is so powerful that it would have killed more than just one person.
The poisoning in the middle of Kuala Lumpur’s busy international airport has prompted some Malaysians to call for an examination of their country’s role in helping North Korea connect with the outside world — and to question whether the North should be allowed to have an embassy in Malaysia.
Dennis Ignatius, a former Malaysian ambassador to several Western Hemisphere countries, called Malaysian officials “naïve and gullible” in dealing with North Korea and questioned why the rogue state had ever been allowed to open its embassy in the first place.
He urged the government — sometimes known by the same name as its geographic location, Putrajaya — to downgrade relations with North Korea. He suggested expelling North Korea’s ambassador, revoking the visas of North Koreans working in Malaysia and closing Malaysia’s embassy in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Malaysia has already recalled its ambassador there for consultations.
“The real question is why Putrajaya has allowed North Korea to turn Malaysia into one of its most important bases of operation in the region from which to carry out clandestine activities, circumvent U.N. sanctions and engage in all sorts of illicit enterprises to earn hard currency for the regime,” he wrote in a blistering blog post this week.
Under the Vienna Convention, countries can declare a foreign diplomat “persona non grata.” Malaysia is said to be considering that designation for Mr. Hyon and his superior, Ambassador Kang Chol, who issued a strongly worded statement last week accusing Malaysia of colluding with South Korea in the Kim case.
Both Malaysia and North Korea are signatories to the Vienna agreement, which allows a country to waive immunity for its own diplomats.
This happens only rarely. Malaysia waived immunity in the case of its military attaché, Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail, who was arrested in New Zealand in 2014 on suspicion of sexually assaulting a young woman.
这种情况很少发生。马来西亚曾在驻外武官穆罕默德·里扎尔曼·本·伊斯梅尔(Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail)的案子中放弃了他的豁免权，2014年，该人因涉嫌对一名年轻女子进行性侵犯在新西兰被逮捕。
He claimed diplomatic immunity and left New Zealand to avoid prosecution. But given the nature of the charges, Malaysia revoked his immunity and returned him to face trial in New Zealand, where he pleaded guilty.
In another unusual case, in 1997, President Eduard A. Shevardnadze of Georgia revoked the immunity of Gueorgui Makharadze, a high-ranking diplomat at the embassy in Washington, who was then tried and convicted in the drunken-driving death of a 16-year-old girl in Maryland.
在另一个不寻常的案子中，1997年，格鲁吉亚总统爱德华·A·谢瓦尔德纳泽(Eduard A. Shevardnadze)取消了该国驻华盛顿大使馆的一位高级外交官Gueorgui Makharadze的豁免权，之后，该外交官因醉酒驾驶、致马里兰州一名16年女孩死亡而受审，并被判有罪。
In 2011, American officials argued that Raymond A. Davis, a C.I.A. contractor who killed two Pakistanis on a crowded street in the city of Lahore, was entitled to diplomatic immunity, a claim rejected by the Pakistani government. He was eventually freed and left the country after the victims’ families were promised millions of dollars in “blood money.”
2011年，美国官员曾辩称说，中央情报局合同工雷蒙德·A·戴维斯(Raymond A. Davis)享有外交豁免权，戴维斯在拉合尔市一条拥挤的街道上开枪打死了两名巴基斯坦人，但巴基斯坦政府拒绝了豁免权的声称。在受害者的家属得到将向他们支付数百万美元“赎罪金”的承诺后，戴维斯最终获释，离开了巴基斯坦。
In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian government, which declined to discuss the case, could face a protracted standoff with North Korea over the two suspects in the embassy.
About 1,000 North Koreans live and work in Malaysia, where their companies have rare access to global markets and the international banking system. For their part, Malaysians can visit North Korea without a visa, but few have reason to go. With such an imbalanced relationship, Malaysia may have little to lose by severing ties with North Korea if it continues to deny the police access to the suspects.
“This is certainly one of the world’s most secretive and ostracized countries, and probably for good reasons,” said Oh Ei Sun, a former secretary to Prime Minister Najib Razak and an adjunct senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “We should really think twice about letting them come in freely.”
“朝鲜当然是世界上最神秘、最受排斥的国家之一，这也许是有充分理由的，”马来西亚总理纳吉布·拉扎克(Najib Razak)的前秘书胡逸山(Oh Ei Sun)说，胡逸山现在新加坡南洋理工大学拉惹勒南国际研究院担任高级客座研究员。“我们应该重新考虑让朝鲜人自由出入的问题。”