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Driving Diplomat Kills Zimbabwe Man, Charged in US with Vandalizing a Government Vehicle
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Citizens around the world should live in fear of foreign diplomats, as those with diplomatic immunity are incredibly difficult to prosecute. In 2008, Andrew Pastirik, an American government employee on assignment in Zimbabwe, allegedly hit and killed a pedestrian, Alois Pedzisai Matyoramhinga, while driving his government-issued SUV through the country’s capital  But because of the peculiarities of diplomatic law, Pastirik is, five years later, only being charged with malicious mischief for causing more than a thousand dollars in damage to the government car.

The trial is shrouded in secrecy, but the Associated Press reports that the incident’s occurrence is not in question; while driving on a dark road, Pastirik has confirmed that he hit and killed Matyoramhinga. What is in question is whether or not Pastirik was intoxicated at the time, or if he had only swerved to avoid oncoming traffic. Pastirik reported the car accident to a security officer at the U.S. embassy in Harare, and the prosecution claims that Pastirik admitted to hitting pedestrians with his car while on an earlier assignment in Afghanistan.

  
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While visiting diplomats are immune to the laws of the nation in which they are working, they can be prosecuted for crimes committed abroad by their own government. Pastirik was protected from prosecution in Zimbabwe, but the United States determined that the incident was worth prosecuting, either on its own or as the result of outside pressure. There are currently no laws that allow the U.S. government to prosecute vehicular manslaughter committed abroad.

In order to prosecute Pastirik, U.S. government attorneys have settled on charging him with vandalizing the government car, which racked up $1,000 in damages from the incident, including Matyorhaminga’s bodily fluids. The defense, however, is demanding that the pedestrian’s death not be included in evidence, as it would lead a jury to consider the case as punishment for the manslaughter, rather than for the vandalism.

In reporting on the case, the Associated Press has found that the reasons for trying the case now, five years after incident, are unknown, and the pretrial hearings were held behind closed doors for national security reasons. They report that part of the delay in prosecuting the case was researching the possibility of bringing Pastirik up on more serious charges.

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