Persona non grata

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For the 2003 documentary film, see Persona Non Grata (film).

In diplomacy, the term persona non grata (Latin, plural: personae non gratae), literally meaning "an unwelcome person," refers to a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a particular country is prohibited by that country's government. It is the most serious form of censure which one country can apply to foreign diplomats, who are otherwise protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and other normal kinds of prosecution.


Under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 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."[1]

With the protection of 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. Breaches of these articles can lead to a persona non grata declaration being used to punish erring staff. It is also used to expel diplomats suspected of espionage (described as "activities incompatible with diplomatic status")[citation needed] or any overt criminal act such as drug trafficking. The declaration may also be a symbolic indication of displeasure. So-called "tit-for-tat" exchanges have occurred, notably during the Cold War. A notable occurrence was an exchange between the United States and Ecuador in 2011. The Ecuadorian Government expelled the United States ambassador, as a result of diplomatic cables leaking (wikileaks). The United States responded by expelling the Ecuadorian ambassador.[2]

Non-diplomatic usage[edit]

In non-diplomatic usage, referring to someone as persona non grata is to say that he or she is ostracized. Such a person is for all intents and purposes culturally shunned, so as to be figuratively nonexistent.

In police circles, this term is often applied to any officer who broke the blue wall of silence by informing against fellow officers; for example as in the case of Frank Serpico, who famously testified against officers who were corrupt and against Ted Briseno over 20 years later.

In one particular military usage, Cavalry Officer James Hewitt was declared persona non grata at his former barracks after he had revealed that he had slept with Diana, Princess of Wales.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations". eDiplomat. Article 9. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  2. ^ "US Expels Ecuadorian ambassador". 8 April 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2011. 

External links[edit]