Persona Non Grata

Persona Non Grata
Persona Non Grata
Quick Summary of Persona Non Grata

Persona non grata, pronounced p?r-soh-n? non grah-d?, is a Latin term that refers to an unwelcome individual, particularly a diplomat, who is not accepted by the host country. The plural form is personae non gratae, and it is commonly used in diplomatic circles. Following a spy scandal, the ambassador was declared persona non grata and was required to leave the country immediately. The government also declared the journalist persona non grata for reporting on sensitive issues, and the sports federation did the same for the athlete due to a violation of the code of conduct. These examples demonstrate how the term is used to describe someone who is not welcome or accepted in a specific situation.

What is the dictionary definition of Persona Non Grata?
Dictionary Definition of Persona Non Grata

A person who is unwelcome, particularly a diplomat who is not embraced by the country they are visiting. This term is also referred to as personae non gratae. The antonym of this term is persona grata, signifying a person who is greeted and accepted.

Full Definition Of Persona Non Grata

The term “persona non grata” is a Latin phrase that translates to “an unwelcome person.” This designation has significant implications in both diplomatic and everyday contexts. In diplomacy, it refers to a person, typically a foreign diplomat, who is no longer acceptable to the host country and must therefore be recalled. In broader terms, it can denote anyone unwelcome in a specific setting. This comprehensive overview delves into the origins, legal framework, and implications of being declared persona non grata, while also exploring notable historical instances and the term’s broader cultural impact.

Origins and Historical Background

The concept of persona non grata dates back to ancient times, when it was crucial for maintaining diplomatic relations between states. The term was formalised in international law with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961). This convention established clear guidelines for diplomatic interactions and the treatment of diplomats, codifying practices that had evolved over centuries. The declaration of persona non grata became a formal tool for states to ensure their sovereignty and security without resorting to more extreme measures such as expulsion or arrest.

Legal Framework

Under the Vienna Convention, the host country has the right to declare any member of the diplomatic staff persona non grata at any time and without having to explain. Once declared persona non grata, the individual in question is typically given a reasonable period to leave the country. Failure to depart can result in the person losing their diplomatic immunity, potentially leading to arrest or other legal actions by the host country.

The Process of Declaration

  • Identification: The host country identifies the diplomat whose actions are deemed unacceptable.
  • Notification: The host country formally notifies the sending state of the declaration.
  • Recall: The sending state recalls the diplomat, who must leave the host country within the specified period.
  • Replacement: The sending state may choose to replace the diplomat with another individual.

Reasons for Declaration

Several reasons can lead to a diplomat being declared persona non grata, including:

  • Espionage: Engaging in intelligence-gathering activities.
  • Interference: Involvement in the internal affairs of the host country.
  • Criminal Activities: Participation in criminal acts or activities that violate local laws.
  • Unacceptable Behaviour: Actions that are deemed offensive or inappropriate by the host country.

Notable Historical Instances

  1. Cold War Era: The Cold War saw numerous instances of diplomats being declared persona non grata, often as a tit-for-tat measure between the United States and the Soviet Union. Espionage activities were a common reason for such declarations.
  2. Recent Examples: In 2018, over 150 Russian diplomats were expelled by various countries following the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom. These expulsions were a coordinated response to what was perceived as a blatant violation of international norms.

Implications of Being Declared Persona Non-Grata

For the individual diplomat, being declared persona non grata can have several personal and professional consequences:

  • Career Impact: Such a declaration can damage the diplomat’s career, limiting future assignments and promotions.
  • Reputation: It can tarnish the individual’s reputation within diplomatic circles and beyond.
  • Personal Disruption: The diplomat and their family must abruptly relocate, often causing significant personal and logistical challenges.

For the sending and receiving states, the declaration of persona non grata can affect diplomatic relations.

  • Diplomatic Tensions: It can lead to increased tensions and a deterioration of bilateral relations.
  • Retaliation: The sending state may retaliate by declaring diplomats from the host country persona non grata.
  • Dialogue Breakdown: In extreme cases, it can result in a breakdown of diplomatic dialogue and cooperation.

Persona Non-Grata in Broader Contexts

Beyond diplomacy, the term has found usage in various other contexts to describe individuals who are unwelcome in certain settings. For example:

  • Corporate World: Executives or employees involved in scandals may be declared persona non grata within their industry.
  • Social Settings: Individuals who violate the norms of a community or social group may be ostracised and labelled as unwelcome.
  • Cultural Impact: The concept has been depicted in literature, film, and media, often symbolising rejection and exclusion.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: The Cold War Espionage

During the Cold War, espionage was rampant, and diplomats often found themselves at the centre of these covert activities. One notable instance was in 1986 when the United States declared 25 Soviet diplomats persona non grata on accusations of espionage. The Soviet Union retaliated by expelling 10 American diplomats. This series of actions highlighted the use of persona non grata declarations as strategic moves in the broader context of Cold War tensions.

Case Study 2: The Skripal Poisoning

In March 2018, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury, England. The UK government attributed the attack to Russian operatives, leading to the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK. In a show of solidarity, over 20 other countries, including the United States and several European nations, expelled a total of more than 150 Russian diplomats. This coordinated action was one of the largest expulsions of diplomats in history and underscored the seriousness with which the international community viewed the violation of international norms.

The Role of Persona Non-Grata in Modern Diplomacy

In contemporary diplomacy, the declaration of persona non grata remains a crucial tool for states to manage their diplomatic relations and safeguard their sovereignty. It is used judiciously to address actions that threaten national security or undermine diplomatic decorum. Despite its potentially severe implications, it is a preferred option over more drastic measures, allowing states to signal their disapproval while maintaining a level of diplomatic engagement.


The designation of persona non grata is a powerful instrument in international relations, rooted in centuries-old practices and formalised by modern international law. It serves as a mechanism for states to protect their interests and assert their sovereignty in a controlled and diplomatic manner. Beyond its legal and diplomatic significance, the concept has permeated various aspects of society, symbolising exclusion and rejection. Understanding the nuances and implications of being declared persona non grata offers valuable insights into the complexities of diplomacy and international relations.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the role of persona non grata declarations will continue to evolve, reflecting the changing dynamics of global diplomacy. Whether used to address espionage, interference in domestic affairs, or other unacceptable behaviours, it remains a critical tool for states navigating the intricate landscape of international relations.

Persona Non Grata FAQ'S

“Persona Non Grata” is a Latin term that translates to “person not welcome.” It is used in international law to refer to an individual who is declared undesirable or unwelcome in a particular country.

The authority to declare someone a Persona Non Grata lies with the host country’s government or diplomatic authorities. They have the power to expel or banish an individual from their territory.

There can be various reasons for declaring someone as Persona Non Grata, including espionage, involvement in criminal activities, violation of diplomatic protocols, or actions deemed detrimental to the host country’s interests or security.

Being declared Persona Non Grata typically results in the expulsion of the individual from the host country. They may be required to leave immediately and may face restrictions on re-entry in the future.

Challenging a declaration as Persona Non Grata can be difficult, as it is a decision made by the host country’s authorities. However, individuals can seek diplomatic assistance from their home country’s embassy or consulate to address the situation.

Yes, a declaration of Persona Non Grata can be revoked if the host country’s authorities deem it appropriate. This usually occurs when the circumstances that led to the declaration change or if diplomatic negotiations between the countries involved lead to a resolution.

While being declared as Persona Non Grata does not necessarily result in legal consequences, it can have significant diplomatic and practical implications. It may strain diplomatic relations between countries and restrict the individual’s ability to travel or conduct business in the host country.

Being declared a Persona Non Grata does not automatically lead to arrest or detention. However, if the individual has committed a crime or violated any laws, they may be subject to arrest or legal action regardless of their Persona Non Grata status.

Yes, a declaration of Persona Non Grata can be applied to diplomats or embassy staff. In such cases, the host country may request the removal of the individual from their diplomatic mission, leading to their recall or expulsion.

There is no universal appeal process for a declaration of Persona Non Grata. However, individuals can seek diplomatic channels and engage in negotiations between their home country and the host country to address the situation and potentially have the decision reconsidered.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 8th June 2024.

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