The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Wang: Searching and seizing digital evidence inside a consulate: A violation of international law?


Wang, K., Dept of Law, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong


Under international law, Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (“VCCR”) 1963 forbids the authorities of a Receiving State from entering the consulate of a Sending State without the consent of the consul. However, a consulate is not immune from search by the authorities of the Receiving State. A dilemma is that even if law enforcement officers of the Receiving State are in possession of a search warrant issued by a court of the Receiving State to search the consulate, they are barred from entering the consulate unless the consul has given consent.

The author suggests a scenario that a staff of the consulate has committed a crime in the Receiving State and stored the relevant digital data in the server of the consulate to avoid seizure. The author argues that it is not a violation of international law by conducting remote search to seize the digital evidence stored in the server of the consulate. By using this method, the law enforcement officers of the Receiving State are able to accomplish their mission without physically entering the consulate.

Consulate, Search Warrant, Remote Search
Kenny Wang