KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The Office of the Prime Minister on Friday released the following statement by H.E. Camillo Gonsalves, Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations on his arrest by a New York Police Department officer in New York on Wednesday.
The statement is published in its entirety:
“Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations
“My name is Camillo Michael Gonsalves. I am the Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, and have served in that capacity since 6 November 2007, the date on which I presented my credentials to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“THE BUILDING PREMISES
“For the duration of my tenure as Permanent Representative, my office, the Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, has been located at 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400-G, New York, NY. I enter and exit the premises multiple times on each working day. The building in which the Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations is located is the home to many other diplomatic missions. The majority of the diplomatic missions in the building are members of The Commonwealth, with the notable exception of the State of Israel.1 We enter the building by means of a common lobby and shared elevator system, through which we have access to our various Permanent Missions and office facilities.
“The lobby of the building is staffed by unarmed personnel, who check the identification of visitors to the building, and determine who should gain access. The lobby is also staffed by Israeli security officials, who perform separate identification and safety checks on those individuals visiting the Permanent Mission of Israel.
“Uniformed police officers of the New York Police Department (“NYPD”) are stationed outside of the building. The NYPD officers do not engage in checking the identification of people seeking to enter the building. There is usually one NYPD officer stationed in a permanent guard post directly in front of the building. One or two other officers traditionally patrol the city block on which the building is located.
“On the outside of the building, the NYPD maintains stacks of metal barricades, which normally lean against concrete structures that line that particular sidewalk. The barriers are called into use whenever political demonstrations or protests take place outside of the building. In such instances, the barricades are erected on the opposite side of the street from the Permanent Mission to contain the demonstrators, and to keep the protestors from “disturbing the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity,” as is mandated by Article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961).
“The Permanent Missions housed at 800 Second Avenue, New York, NY include those of Dominica, The Gambia, Grenada, Israel, The Maldives, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Other, non-diplomatic establishments are also located in the building.
“Ambassadors and other diplomatic staff, as well as delivery drivers, couriers, and pedestrians, regularly step between and around these metal rails when no demonstrations are taking place. It is the common practice for Ambassadors and other diplomatic staff to be dropped off by their drivers directly in front of the building, and for those persons to step around/between the barricades, cross the sidewalk, and enter the building. The staff members of the Permanent Mission of Israel, as the largest diplomatic staff in the building, are probably the most frequent users of this particular mode of entry. However, all diplomatic staff frequently enter the building in this manner.
“Over the course of my four and one-half years as Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, I have regularly entered the building in this manner.
“On 28th March 2012, at approximately 2:45 p.m., I was returning from a lunch with other diplomatic colleagues. I returned from the lunch in the official vehicle of the Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, which bears diplomatic licence plates. The official vehicle was being driven by another member of staff of the Permanent Mission.
“As is the custom, the official vehicle stopped directly in front of the building that houses the Permanent Mission. I exited the official vehicle in full view of the NYPD officer in the guard post, and began to walk to my office, while the staff member continued driving the car to its designated parking area. As usual, I stepped between the metal barricades, which were not linked together or otherwise connected, and continued towards the front door of my office building.
“After I had walked past the guard post located on the sidewalk, an NYPD officer emerged from the structure and shouted at me angrily.
“He said: ‘Hey You! You! What the hell do you think the Goddamn barricades are there for?’
“I was, quite frankly, shocked at the NYPD officer’s loud and angry outburst, both because of its hostile tone and the fact that, in over four years of entering the building in that manner, I had never been previously been subject to any comment whatsoever. I did not respond to the NYPD officer, and instead continued into the lobby of my office building.
“In the building, I was greeted by the unarmed personnel that supervise the entrance of visitors to the building. Since the building staff all know me very well (as they know all longstanding tenants of the building), they do not require me to produce identification to enter the building. I stopped to speak briefly with the individual on duty that day, a Caribbean national with whom I chat often.
“I was proceeding to the elevators when the NYPD officer that shouted at me earlier entered the building. He approached me from behind placed his hand on my neck and shoulder, and spun me around to face him. The officer, again angrily, shouted at me once more.
“He said: ‘You! Didn’t you see me talking to you outside?’
“I replied, in a calm voice, ‘You couldn’t have been talking to me.’
“The NYPD officer then responded, again with hostility: ‘Show me some ID right now!’
“I replied to the NYPD officer’s demand with a simple question: ‘Why? Am I under arrest?’ The question was based on the fact that (1) the officer had already grabbed me and spun me around, impeding my entry into my office; and (2) the NYPD officers stationed outside the building, to my knowledge, have never previously requested identification from any individual. The decision to check identification and to grant access to the elevators is made by the building personnel in the lobby, not the NYPD.
“As soon as I asked the NYPD officer why I was being asked to produce identification, and whether I was under arrest, he said ‘You are now!’
“The NYPD officer, whose surname is Parker, and whose badge number is 21289, then produced his handcuffs and demanded that I place my hands behind my back. Aware of my rights under the relevant sections of the Vienna Convention, and aware of the fact that I had committed no criminal offence, I informed Officer Parker that I would not place my hands behind my back. Officer Parker proceeded to place his handcuff on my left wrist. I clasped my hands in front of me and stood perfectly still and rigid, as if at attention.
“Officer Parker then began to squeeze the handcuff tightly on my left wrist, in an attempt to yank my hands behind my back. He was unsuccessful in this effort. Officer Parker called for backup, and another one or two NYPD officers arrived in the lobby and began to manhandle me in an effort to handcuff me. I remained uncooperative, but peaceful. At some point I was struck or somehow bruised behind my right ear. There are minor abrasions in this area.
“The officers, collectively, managed to force my hands behind my back and to handcuff me. I was pulled to the side of the lobby, where Officer Parker informed me that he was getting a Squad Car to take me to the ’17th Precinct.’
“Other Ambassadors with Permanent Missions in the building, as well as other diplomatic staff, began to congregate in the lobby. They were shouting at the NYPD officers that they were at fault, that I had done nothing wrong, and that they should not arrest and handcuff Ambassadors. The persons gathered in the building lobby also stressed the number of times that very day that members of the Israeli Permanent Mission had entered and exited the building in that manner.
“Other officers on the scene began questioning me about what took place, and also asked me whether I worked in the building and in what capacity. I responded to them calmly and truthfully, despite the fact that I was under arrest and being questioned without having been informed of my ‘Miranda Rights’ as mandated by U.S. Law. Similarly, I had not been informed of the supposed ‘crime’ for which I was under arrest. The other officers persuaded Officer Parker not to place me in a squad car and instead to call his superior officer. My own staff, in turn, learned of my predicament and called the individuals in the United States State Department responsible for the interactions between Permanent Missions and the United States, our host country.
“As the crowd gathered, Officer Parker began to act in an uneasy manner. Apparently by way of post-hoc justification, Officer Parker said quietly to his fellow officers, but within my earshot: ‘I couldn’t let him just walk into the building. Look at him: he could be a terrorist.’
“After approximately 20 minutes in handcuffs, senior NYPD officers and U.S. State department personnel arrived in the lobby. At that point, my handcuffs were released, and I went upstairs to my office.
“The lobby of the building is under 24-hour video surveillance. The Permanent Mission of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations is currently attempting to obtain the footage of the incident, which I am confident will corroborate this account of my ordeal.
“The U.S. State Department Personnel later joined me in my office to express their personal regret that the incident had taken place. They also said that the NYPD was considering issuing me a summons for disorderly conduct, which would require me to pay a fine. I informed them that I considered myself the victim of a police assault, and may pursue my own redress to that assault. Shortly thereafter, the State Department Personnel informed me that the NYPD had decided not to issue any summons.
“Later that day, I was contacted by the U.S. State Department and reminded that, if I decide to pursue legal action for my assault, I would be waiving whatever jurisdictional immunities I possess as a diplomatic agent. I was informed that, if I contemplated legal action, I may become subject to a counter suit by the New York District Attorney. Responding to this, I told the State Department official that all of my legal and diplomatic options remain open at this point, and that I was unwilling to foreclose on any action under threat of counteraction.
“THE INJURIES SUSTAINED
“On the night of 28th March 2012, I visited the emergency room of the New York University Medical Center, which is located a short way from my office. I was evaluated by Dr. Heather Mahoney. Dr. Mahoney examined the following injuries:
- Abrasions to the back of my head (and performed basic tests of balance and coordination)
- Bruises on my wrists
- Swelling and numbness in my left hand
- Injuries to my left shoulder, which prevented my full range of motion in that joint.
“Dr. Mahoney ordered X-rays, which revealed no broken bones. She diagnosed me with peripheral nerve damage in my left wrist and hand and possible strained ligaments in my left shoulder. In Dr. Mahoney’s opinion, the damage should not be lasting. However, she indicated that I should see Hand Specialists and Orthopedists if the hand and shoulder pain, respectively, does not dissipate within a week. I was also given a tetanus injection, due to the bruising on my wrists caused by the officer’s handcuffs.
“THE VIENNA CONVENTION AND THE UN HOST COUNTY AGREEMENT
“The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations ensures that, at a minimum, any diplomatic agent enjoys ‘immunity from jurisdiction and inviolability in respect of official acts performed in the exercise of his functions.’
“Article 29 of the Convention, which deals with the issue of ‘inviolability,’ states: ‘The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.’
“Article 22 states that the receiving state (in this case, the United States) ‘is under a special duty’ to ‘prevent any disturbance of the peace of the diplomatic mission or impairment of its dignity.’
“Included in the Agreement between the United Nations and the United States of America regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations, which was approved by the UN General Assembly on 31 October 1947, the United States is bound, to extend these privileges and immunities to Permanent Representatives of the United Nations, even in instances where the United States itself does not maintain diplomatic relations with the countries accredited to the United Nations.
“Similarly, Article V of the 1946 Resolution 22(I), entitled ‘Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations’ states ‘Persons accredited to the United Nations by Members as resident representatives and their staffs, whether residing inside or outside the zone, shall be recognized by the Government of the United States of America as entitled on its territory to the same privileges and immunities as that Government accords to the diplomatic envoys accredited to it, and the staffs of these envoys.’
“Signed this 29th Day of March 2012 by
“Camillo M. Gonsalves
“Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations
“800 Second Avenue, Suite 400-G
“New York NY 10017″