The question of diplomatic asylum, although from some points of view rather technical, is nevertheless on occasion a significant one for international law and relations, especially in an era of political instability such as the present. As the title of this solid and definitive study suggests, the problem has been important in Latin America for quite evident reasons.
The author first examines the evidence as to whether or not the practice of granting asylum is based on generally recognized legal right and obligation and concludes that this is not the case, despite the existence of several Latin American multilateral treaties on the subject. Beyond this problem is the greater difficulty of determining whether the refugee is a political offender against the territorial state from which asylum is sought and thus entitled to protection. Although several Latin American conventions provide that the state granting asylum shall make this determination, the author notes that in the leading case on this point, the Colombian-Peruvian Asylum Case, the International Court of Justice found that there was no customary rule of law to this effect. The author concurs with the Court on the basis of his own research, based on an exhaustive examination of United States and Latin American documentary materials, although he notes that the institution of asylum is in fact widely respected.
One must agree with Professor Running that given the possibility or even probability of political violence or terrorism in Latin America at the present time, it would seem highly desirable that the territorial state be able to protect itself against the abuse of a practice which may nonetheless, on occasion, be useful. Thus the Court’s decision is not to be deplored (several Latin American jurists were most unhappy about it).
This is a well-written work of impressive scholarship and a most useful addition to the literature.