Tuesday, February 15, 2011

President Obama on the Raymond Davis Case

President Obama had a Q&A earlier today.  ABC's Jake Tapper threw in the following question:

Q    Thanks, Mr. President.... And also, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the attempts to get American diplomat Ray Davis freed from Pakistan.  Some have criticized the administration for putting pressure too publicly on what is essentially a weak government, and I’m wondering if you could walk us through that process.  Thanks.

THE PRESIDENT:  With respect to Mr. Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is -- has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution.

We respect it with respect to diplomats who are here.  We expect Pakistan, that's a signatory and recognize Mr. Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention.

And the reason this is an important principle is if it starts being fair game on our ambassadors around the world, including in dangerous places, where we may have differences with those governments, and our ambassadors or our various embassy personnel are having to deliver tough messages to countries where we disagree with them on X, Y, Z, and they start being vulnerable to prosecution locally, that’s untenable.  It means they can’t do their job.  And that’s why we respect these conventions, and every country should as well.

So we’re going to be continuing to work with the Pakistani government to get this person released.  And obviously part of -- for those who aren’t familiar with the background on this, a couple of Pakistanis were killed in a incident between Mr. Davis within -- in Pakistan.  So obviously, we’re concerned about the loss of life.  We’re not callous about that.  But there’s a broader principle at stake that I think we have to uphold.

 Q    How serious have your threats been to the Pakistani government if they don't hand him over?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m not going to discuss the specific exchanges that we’ve had.  But we’ve been very firm about this being an important priority.

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