Is an embassy on foreign soil the sovereign territory of the host country or the embassy's country?

Thus, if, for example, you are in the British embassy in Beijing, are you in China or the UK? Are you subject to British or Chinese law?

17 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    Oh, good grief. Here we go again.

    Contrary to popular perception and a lot of careless news reporting, embassies are the sovereign territory of the country in which they are located, NOT of the country whose diplomatic mission is housed there. That is why an office building can host an embassy on some floors and, say, a bank on others.

    The reason for the misperception is probably that the Vienna Convention states that the local government foreswears the right to enter an embassy, and diplomatic immunity protects the diplomats working inside. However, this does not mean that that space is somehow transmuted into UK (or other) soil or legal territory for purposes of law enforcement.

    Imagine, if a person should enter the British embassy and kill someone, who do you think will arrest him? Correct answer: the Chinese police. They cannot enter the embassy without the Ambassador's permission, but with that permission they will go in, take away the miscreant, and then try him in Chinese court under Chinese law. Or else the embassies security officers will deliver him to them outside the embassy gate. Imagine, if you can, the utter nonsense of the fellow being hustled onto an airplane and flown to London for trial.

    Source(s): I am a US diplomat and consular officer. Here is the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Notice the absence of claim that an embassy is the sovereign territory of the country that occupies it, only that the embassy is protected, see article 22 and on.
  • 1 decade ago

    An embassy is supposed to be like a little piece of that foreign country, so the embassy's laws are held there. But of course everywhere outside is the host country, so they might not let someone they were after ever leave that embassy.

    So in the example if you were Chinese and violated China's internet laws while in the UK embassy say, they might still arrest you when you left. And they would also probably make a fuss with the British for allowing it even though it did not violate British law.

  • 5 years ago

    The Embassy's country! According to the US State Dept.

  • Nedra
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    This is one of those areas where the popular perception may be more accurate than the technical definition. While the premises of foreign missions may not be precisely the sovereign territory of the sending country, the practical effect of Vienna convention provisions giving the place special status is the same. Mission premises (this includes consulates general and consulates as well as embassies) cannot be entered without permission, even by local law enforcement or firefighters responding to a fire within. And by "premises" is meant the entire parcel of land occupied by the mission, usually surrounded by some sort of wall or other demarcation. For these reasons the status of a diplomatic mission is for practical purposes that of foreign sovereign territory in another state, but the fact that many of these premises are leased from the host government or a private landowner indicates that they are never in that category legally. When the property lease is up and the mission moves elsewhere, the protected status and foreign "control" of that place ceases immediately without any measures to "return" it to the host country.

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  • 1 decade ago


    Technically, a foreign Embassy on foreign soil belongs to the country of origin.

    Such a British one in Kuwait allowed us to have a beer or three in the Embassy. No alcohol in the country !

    It seems to do with "diplomatic relations", in that the dip- bag is not a bag, but could well be a container full of goodies from the port.

    If I go to the American Embassy in London, I am technically under US laws & statutes, It is home soil in a different land.

    Weird, but true.


    Oh- PS

    I once received a white cardboard box marked "spare parts" when in Saudi. It was full of Jack Daniels from the British Embassy.

  • 4 years ago

    Foreign Embassies In The Uk

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    An Embassy is the sovereign territory of the embassy's country. When in a British Embassy in China you are under the protection of the British Government and the Chinese can only talk to you, arrest you etc with the approval of the British Government's representative's/Diplomat's in China.

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The area within the compound of the embassy is the soil of the country to whom the embassy belongs. It is like the British bases on Cyprus, they are Crown land. The law of the sovereign country applies. Hence you can claim asylum by entering the embassy.

  • 1 decade ago

    Embassies and Naval vessels throughout the world are sovereign representation of their respective nation. Any nation that violates (host nation included) this space, has in effect, violated their soil/interests. And yes, if you commit a crime within the confines of an embassy or a naval vessel, then you are subject to their jurisdiction and the host nation has no say in the matter.

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