Definitions

non grata

Persona non grata

[per-soh-nah nohn grah-tah; Eng. per-soh-nuh non grah-tuh, grey-, grat-uh]
Persona non grata (Latin, plural: personae non gratae, also abbreviated PNG), literally meaning "an unwelcome person," is a term used in diplomacy with a specialised and legally defined meaning. The opposite of persona non grata is persona grata (e.g., used as the title of a 1907 work by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky).

Diplomacy

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations Article 9, a receiving State may "at any time and without having to explain its decision" declare any member of a diplomatic staff persona non grata. A person so declared is considered unacceptable and is usually recalled to his or her home nation. If not recalled, the receiving State "may refuse to recognize the person concerned as a member of the mission."

While diplomatic immunity protects mission staff from prosecution for violating civil and criminal laws, depending on rank, under Articles 41 and 42 of the Vienna Convention, they are bound to respect national laws and regulations (amongst other issues). Breaches of these articles can lead to persona non grata being used to 'punish' erring staff. It is also used to expel diplomats suspected of espionage ("activities incompatible with their status"), or as a symbolic indicator of displeasure (e.g. the Italian expulsion of the Egyptian First Secretary in 1984). So-called "tit-for-tat" exchanges have occurred, notably during the Cold War. Notable recent occurrences include exchanges between the United States and Venezuela, the United States and Belarus, the United Kingdom and Russia (see Anglo-Russian relations), between Russia and Georgia, between the United States and Bolivia and between India and Pakistan.

The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 included the list of 150 personae non gratae of Turkey, which forbade the entry of mainly a group of former Ottoman Empire officials and about 100 other persons to Turkey, until the lifting of this status in 1938.

Kurt Waldheim, former UN Secretary-General and former President of Austria, and his wife were given personae non gratae status in the US when he was accused of having known about Nazi war crimes and not having done anything about them; charges that were never proven but, nevertheless, were acted upon.

Non-diplomatic usage

In non-diplomatic usage, calling someone persona non grata is to say that he or she is ostracized, so as to be figuratively nonexistent.

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